High-tech ID security helps thieves

5 September 2005 Technologies designed to combat identity theft, such as ‘chip-and-pin’ identification, are making it easier for fraudsters, according to recent research.

Speaking at the British Assocation’s Festival of Science in Dublin, Dr Emily Finch, a leading researcher into fraud techniques, told delegates that an over-reliance on technology was making it easy for criminals to perpetrate crime.

“Excessive reliance on technology to combat fraudulent behaviour leads to a breakdown in the vigilance that is customarily exercised,” said Finch.

Finch cited examples of how credit card thieves have learned to exploit the ‘chip and pin’ system used to authenticate credit card transactions. People often neglect to hide their personal identification number (PIN) when entering it, enabling fraudsters to spy on the card’s owner and stealing the card once the PIN is known.


Finch has conducted a number of field experiments to examine how easy it is to perpetrate credit card fraud. Her findings led her to conclude that technology may worsen security, rather than improve it.

This raises serious questions about the British Government’s plans to introduce ID cards, she added.

“The more people rely on a particular piece of identification to verify identity, the less vigilance people will exercise themselves – that’s the problem. If there are ID cards we will trust them to be unassailable.”

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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