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Lehigh professor works to prevent credit card fraud

Lehigh Professor Yinzhi Cao leads team in the development of SafePay – the first anti-fraud system to use existing credit card readers

Yinzhi Cao, an assistant professor in computer science and engineering, recently led a team of researchers in developing an inexpensive, secure method to prevent mass credit card fraud using existing magnetic card readers. The novel technique — called SafePay — works by transforming disposable credit card information to electrical current and driving a magnetic card chip to simulate the behavior of a physical magnetic card.

The research, led by Cao and co-authored by Xiang Pan and Yan Chen from Northwestern University, will be presented at the IEEE Conference on Communications and Network Security, September 28-30, 2015, in Florence, Italy. The study will also be published as paper, "SafePay: Protecting against Credit Card Forgery with Existing Magnetic Card Readers."

Here’s how it works: First, the user downloads and executes the mobile banking application, which communicates with the bank server. During transactions, the mobile application acquires disposable credit card numbers from the bank server, generates a wave file, plays the file to generate electrical current, and then drives the magnetic card chip via an audio jack or Bluetooth.

Cao and his colleagues conducted real-world experiments with technology, performing transactions with a vending machine, at a gas station and at a university coffee shop. During the experiments, they used a bank application, cell phone application and magnetic credit card chip. The disposable credit card information was acquired from ShopSafe by registering several disposable credit card numbers with Bank of America. In all three scenarios, the SafePay method worked and the transactions were successful.

The material included in the paper is based on work supported in part by Qatar National Research Fund and the National Science Foundation.

Read the full story in the Lehigh University News Center.

-Talia Dunyak '16 is a student-writer with the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

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