As computers continue to permeate every corner of our lives, it’s easy to dismiss older mechanised technology. However, UK retail bank Barclays is hoping a return to the past will pay dividends for its customers of the future, as it deploys World War Two developed cypher technology to bolster card security.
In what Barclays are hailing as the biggest shake-up in card security since the launch of chip and pin, new cards will include a device that harnesses Enigma machine style coding to produce ever-changing numbers to replace the currently CVV number on cards.
CVV numbers were designed as an additional line of defence against criminals who only has access to card numbers and expiry dates, but they are now seen as vulnerable to attack from criminals. These attacks come from coordinated assaults against multiple retailers, guessing different CVV’s, or from direct attacks on poorly protected retailer databases (where CVV numbers have been stored after purchases).
The Enigma machine was famously impenetrable for most of World War Two, giving the Nazi’s a huge advantage over Allied forces. It was not until British codebreakers at Bletchley Park, headed by Alan Turing, cracked the code (after an Enigma machine was captured from a submarine that the Nazi’s believed had sunk) that the war turned in the Allies favour.
Barclays are hoping that technology will offer their customers unrivalled security against payment the card fraudsters who cost banks millions every year, but it could also signal the rebirth of the payment card itself.
Many commentators had assumed physical cards would become an irrelavance as customers flock to mobile phone-based payments. However, as card security technology improves it could be that cards supporting numerous varied security features become the best way to outsmart innovative fraudsters.