Credit card skimmers are the bane of pretty much everyone’s existence in this modern world. Even Batman’s Bane probably hated them. Luckily, there’s a new way to fight this particular crime, no masked avenger required.
Bluetana is a new app that was built by a team of computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego; the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and the United States Secret Service, which designed it to wirelessly detect credit card skimmers that are hidden inside gas pumps or bank ATMs.
As Fast Company has previously reported, the little buggers have gotten so advanced that they are nearly impossible for mere mortals to detect. And thanks to Bluetooth technology, they can not only crib your credit card information but your PIN and zip code, too. “All criminals have to do is download the data from the comfort of their vehicle,” Nishant Bhaskar, a Ph.D. student in computer science at the University of California San Diego and the study’s first author, said in a press release.
That’s where Bluetana comes in. The app can detect Bluetooth-enabled skimmers without having to dismantle the gas pump, which makes it far more useful than manual checks. According to Krebs on Security’s Brian Krebs, who have given the app the piratical nickname of “the scourge of pump skimmers,” the researchers had volunteers collect Bluetooth scans at 1,185 gas stations across six states. Bluetana was able to detect 64 skimmers, which were later removed by law enforcement, including two that were reportedly missed in earlier manual inspections.
Not only is Bluetana effective, but it is also fast, cutting down detection time to just a few seconds rather than a few minutes and with a much lower false-positive rate.
While that could be a huge boon to anyone who has developed a phobia of pumping gas, it’s not available to consumers quite yet. Currently, the app is only available to law enforcement officials and gas pump inspectors. But, hey, we don’t have access to Batarangs or the Batmobile either, and they still helped stop Bane.