There should be a 9-minute film on Newsnight tonight (10:30pm, BBC Two) showing some research by Steven Murdoch, Saar Drimer, Mike Bond and me. We demonstrate a middleperson attack on EMV which lets criminals use stolen chip and PIN cards without knowing the PIN.
Our technical paper Chip and PIN is Broken explains how. It has been causing quite a stir as it has circulated the banking industry privately for over 2 months, and it has been accepted for the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, the top conference in computer security. (See also our FAQ and the press release.)
The flaw is that when you put a card into a terminal, a negotiation takes place about how the cardholder should be authenticated: using a PIN, using a signature or not at all. This particular subprotocol is not authenticated, so you can trick the card into thinking it’s doing a chip-and-signature transaction while the terminal thinks it’s chip-and-PIN. The upshot is that you can buy stuff using a stolen card and a PIN of 0000 (or anything you want). We did so, on camera, using various journalists’ cards. The transactions went through fine and the receipts say “Verified by PIN”.