It seems nowadays a lot of people are after your money. Sales people, telemarketers, boyfriends...and in the technology age, we got hackers to be concerned about too. In 2013, every gay man's favorite place to shop, Target, had been breached with over 70 million customers' private information in the hands of hackers. In 2014, the Sony Playstation Network had been compromised with over 100 terabytes of information reported stolen — including credit card numbers and passcodes.
That same year, Home Depot consumers had their information stolen when over 40 million credit card numbers were downloaded from the company's databases. Needless to say, financial companies had to act quickly to keep your money safe.
This led to the creation of the EMV chip. Yes, that little chip on your new credit cards has a name. EMV (stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) is the new standard in creating transactions. For merchants, the technology means adding new in-store processing equipment and complying with new rules. For us, it means the frustration of standing in line at the grocery store while the person in front tries to figure out to either slide the card or stick it in. So does this standing in longer lines, or staring at a screen waiting for the "Remove Card" prompt, keep our bank accounts safer?
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That depends. Magnetic cards use static information to make transaction. EMV cards use chips to create not only the transaction but a security key that lasts for 60 seconds. But according to hacking experts, a lot can be done in 60 seconds. Remember the movie "Swordfish"? Hugh Jackman's character had to break through an FBI encryption in less than 60 seconds with a gun to his head and a blonde on his other head. Sure it's a movie, but could it be done? Can our credit card information be stolen in less than a minute?
DEF CON is one of the most distinguished conference of worldwide hackers. Do not assume all hacking is illegal or made up of rowdy teenagers with punk hair and leather jackets. Legal hacking is what keeps most consumers safe. These dedicated individuals try to infiltrate operating systems, mobile technologies, and internet websites to show companies their vulnerabilities and how to close them.
What did this team of geniuses discover about our EMV chip cards? Using a Point-Of-Sale terminal (POS) or Automated Teller Machine (ATM), hackers were able to intercept the chip's unique key identifier and transfer it to another machine where a withdrawal could be made. All done in less than a minute. Queue the waa...waa...waaaaa music. But don't despair. This situation would take two machines compromised at the same moment, in less than 60 seconds, which would take a lot of skill and a team of hackers. Already banking institutions are trying to close this loophole and are working tirelessly to keep their servers from being hacked.
Though the chances of being electronically raided are becoming slimmer, you may still be wondering if there is a guaranteed safe way to access your money. Besides the standard suggestions, like don't share your PIN number or bank account passcodes, there is an alternative and it's right in front of you — your fingerprint.
Fingerprints are unique to each of us and being utilized on your cellphones with programs like Apple Pay and Android Pay. These programs use your print to authorize a transaction when you are at a participating location. Another alternative to accessing your money...use plain old cash. There's no way to hack that.