Researches found a vulnerability in the payment system of Apple Pay and Visa. After finding a bug that fraudsters might use to elude security measures and make unlimited contactless purchases, researchers have urged iPhone users to cancel Visa as a transportation card using Apple Pay.
Experts from the University of Birmingham and the University of Surrey raised concerns that the flaw might be used to conduct transactions from an iPhone in someone’s luggage without them knowing.
There’s a security flaw regarding the payment system of Apple Pay and Visa
The issue is said to occur only with Apple Pay when a Visa card is set up as an Express Travel Card, also known as Express Transit mode. The team used simple radio equipment to trick the iPhone into believing it was communicating with a transit gate when it was really a payment reader. This was accomplished by detecting a unique code sent out by transit gates, which was then used to interfere with the signals between the iPhone and a shop card reader.
Dr. Tom Chothia from the University of Birmingham said: “iPhone owners should check if they have a Visa card set up for transit payments and if so they should disable it. There is no need for Apple Pay users to be in danger, but until Apple or Visa fix this they are.”
The group’s tests found that the back-end fraud detection checks were unable to prevent any payments from going through. The researchers said they spoke with Apple and Visa about the vulnerability, claiming both acknowledged the underlying problem’s significance but have yet to reach an agreement on who should implement a solution.
“Variations of contactless fraud schemes have been studied in laboratory settings for more than a decade and have proven to be impractical to execute at scale in the real world,” a Visa spokeswoman said. “Visa takes all security threats very seriously, and we work tirelessly to strengthen payment security across the ecosystem,” she added.
Then, Apple responded with: “We take any threat to users’ security very seriously. This is a concern with a Visa system but Visa does not believe this kind of fraud is likely to take place in the real world given the multiple layers of security in place. In the unlikely event that an unauthorized payment does occur, Visa has made it clear that their cardholders are protected by Visa’s zero liability policy.”
Apple and Visa couldn’t come to an agreement
Dr. Andreea Radu, the leader of the study, commented that: “Our work shows a clear example of a feature, meant to incrementally make life easier, backfiring and negatively impacting security, with potentially serious financial consequences for users.”
“Our discussions with Apple and Visa revealed that when two industry parties each have partial blame, neither are willing to accept responsibility and implement a fix, leaving users vulnerable indefinitely,” he added.
The security flaw does not apply to other combinations, such as Mastercard in iPhones or Visa on Samsung Pay. The researchers’ complete findings will be presented at the 2022 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy.