Viewpoint: Higher Contactless Payment limits will increase Fraud

A poll that EAST ran from May to August 2021 indicates that the majority believe that higher contactless payment limits will increase fraud opportunities.

One outcome of the covid-19 pandemic has been a surge in the use of contactless payment technology.  Cardholders are enjoying faster payments and the ability to pay how they want, either using a card, or NFC if their smartphone has the required app.

The result of an EAST Poll that ran from May to August 2020 indicated that people are increasingly happy to move away from cash payments, either just using contactless, or using a mix of payment mechanisms.

The pandemic has accelerated a move away from cash, with shoppers often being encouraged to use contactless in many stores for public health reasons.  In many countries both the single transaction contactless payment threshold, and the contactless threshold for multiple transactions, without a PIN, have increased.

But will higher contactless transaction limits, without PIN, increase fraud opportunities?  65% of respondents to the EAST poll think that this will be the case.

contactless payment

The EAST Expert Group on Payment and Transaction Fraud (EPTF), which meets three times each year, focuses on the prevention of payment and transaction fraud, including contactless payment transactions. The 11th EAST EPTF meeting took place on 10 November 2021.

Message From The Executive Director

As 2021 draws to a close, it is sobering to think that this year every single EAST meeting has been held online.  We had been hoping to start Hybrid meetings in the spring, but the pandemic got the better of us again.  That being said, the input and contributions from our members has been fantastic and we have all become experts at using the technology required to make virtual meetings happen.  On behalf of the EAST Board, I would once again like to thank all those who have worked so hard to provide information, time, and resources to help us to meet our targets and objectives during the year.

Looking forwards the decision has just been taken to make the first meeting of 2002, the 25th EAST EGAF Meeting on 19th January, a virtual meeting – this is due to the rapidly rising number of cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, and associated restrictions.  It is still firmly hoped that all the other meetings in 2022 will be Hybrid, allowing physical participation for some delegates, as well as virtual participation for others.

Every best wish to all readers for a wonderful festive break and a very happy New Year.

Kind regards



Viewpoint: How Covid-19 is affecting cash usage

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact on how people live their lives and, as a result of the many lock downs, habits are changing.  One area where change is being seen is in cash usage.  From January to April 2021 EAST ran an online research poll which asked the question In which, if any, of the following ways do you think the outbreak of Covid-19 will affect your use of cash in the next six months?:

  • I will use less cash
  • I will use contactless/mobile payments more (e.g. Apple Pay, Google Pay etc)
  • I will do more shopping online
  • I will use card payments more
  • I will use ATMs / cash machines less frequently
  • I don’t think coronavirus will affect my use of cash in the next six months
  • I will take more hygiene precautions when using cash (storing it for longer periods, washing it, using gloves to handle it etc)
  • Don’t know

The final results were as follows (nobody ticked that they will take more hygiene precautions when using cash, or that they don’t know).  Over the next 6 months:

  • 84% of all the respondents will use less cash,
  • 69% will use contactless / mobile payments more,
  • 67% will do more shopping online
  • 52% will use cards more
  • 35% will use ATMs / cash machines less frequently
  • and only 16% of the respondents don’t think that the covid-19 pandemic will affect their use of cash as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.

These results are consistent with our previous poll, that looked at Covid-19, Cash and the future of payments



EAST Poll indicates consumer confidence in NFC payment transactions

Respondents to an online poll run by EAST from September to December 2020 indicated that they were either ‘completely satisfied’ (67%) or ‘satisfied’ (33%) that their payment details are safe when making an NFC payment transaction using a smartphone.

The current number of smartphone users in the world today is 3.5 billion, which means 44.81% of the world’s population owns a smartphone.

Banks and retailers are using the facility to reach their customers and see smartphones as an opportunity to make the consumer payment experience a convenient and seamless one.

Consumers can use Near-Field-Communication (NFC) technology on their smartphone to make contactless payments in stores and to pay for goods and services using in-app payment tools. During the Covid-19 pandemic the limit for a contactless transaction has been lifted in many countries and now averages €50 across the European area.

In making payments easier to manage and more accessible for consumers, there is an underlying risk that access to that information is also made easier for the criminal element, aiming to capture the payment data used by unsuspecting consumers.

While the industry continues to build solutions and barriers to this criminal activity the EAST Payment Task Force (PTF) is examining consumer behaviour and focussing on the security of smartphones used to make NFC payments for goods and services.  On 5th January 2021 an EAST Payment Alert was issued – it covers social engineering used to get financial institution clients to install software that is infected with the Anubis malware on their smartphone.  EAST Alerts and Reports are available to EAST Members.

Message From The Executive Director

What a year it has been!  The major impact of the Covid-19 pandemic for EAST has been that our platforms have had to meet virtually since March.  On behalf of the EAST Board, I would like to thank all those who have worked so hard to provide information, time, and resources to help us to meet our targets and objectives during the year.  Otto de Jong, EAST Founder Member and EGAF Chair, and Martine Hemmerijckx, EAST Co-Founder and Director, were presented with awards in recognition of their ongoing commitment and dedication to the development of EAST, and to their significant contribution to security in the payments industry.

We held our 50th National Member meeting in Vienna in February (hosted by PSA), and then the plan was to hold our first Global Congress in The Hague in June.  Instead we held a virtual meeting for our National and Global Members (our 1st Interim Meeting), which was followed by a second virtual meeting in October (our 2nd Interim Meeting).  On current plans our 3rd Interim Meeting will be held in February 2021, and we hope to be able to hold our 1st Global Congress in The Hague in June 2021.

The EAST Expert Group on All Terminal Fraud (EGAF), chaired by Otto de Jong of ING Bank, held three meetings in January, May and September, the first hosted by ING in Amsterdam and the other two as virtual meetings.

The EAST Expert Group on ATM and ATS Physical Attacks (EGAP), chaired by Graham Mott of the LINK Scheme, held two meetings in March and September, the first in The Hague, hosted by the LINK Scheme, and the second as a virtual meeting.

The EAST Payments Task Force (EPTF), chaired by EAST Development Director Rui Carvalho, held two meetings in April and November, both of which were virtual meetings.

Some other key activities during 2020 were:

EAST continues to keep abreast of the latest fraud trends and crime information, publishing our European Payment Terminal Crime Reports and Fraud Updates.  This year we introduced a new reporting template for our National and Global Members covering: Fraud Type; Fraud Origin; Due Diligence; and Physical Attacks.  This enabled us to reformat our Fraud Update and the first one with the new look was published in July 2020.  Our thanks again go out to all the people and organisations that have shared information for the above, and for EAST Fraud Alerts (31 sent out this year to date), EAST Physical Attack Alerts (7 sent out this year to date) and EAST Payment Alerts (5 sent out this year to date).  EAST EGAF also published a general Security Alert relating to Transaction Reversal Fraud (TRF).

This year we launched our new Global Membership category to enhance our intelligence capabilities and to reflect the fact that organised criminal groups are increasingly global in operation.  Global Members attend and receive outputs from EAST Interim Meetings and EAST Global Congress Meetings.

We now have 209 Associate Member organisations from 53 countries and territories. This membership category is open for worldwide application to all Banks, Law Enforcement (free membership available), and other approved ATM Stakeholder organisations.

Here’s hoping that the new year allows us to return to holding in-person meetings and events.  We are planning to commence ‘Hybrid Meetings’ from April next year, but this is of course dependant on many factors outwith our control.

Every best wish to all readers for a wonderful festive break and a very happy New Year.  And of course, Stay Safe!

Kind regards


Viewpoint: Covid-19, Cash, and the future of payments

Covid-19 (coronavirus) has had a huge impact on our lives and what was perceived to be normal before the pandemic, may now no longer be so as we come to terms with the long-term implications. One factor is how we treat cash.  Before the pandemic started cash usage was declining in many countries, but the demise of cash was still predicted to be many years away – people still liked to use it because cash transactions are generally invisible and also because it is a familiar and trusted payment mechanism. Older people, who often do not have the same digital footprint as younger generations, also prefer it.

During the Covid-19 pandemic cash usage has plummeted in many countries, partly because of fears of that Covid-19 can be transmitted by cash, and partly because people have been locked-down at home and only going out to shop for essential items. Scientific evidence suggests that the probability of viral transmission via banknotes is low when compared with other frequently touched objects, such as credit card terminals or PIN pads. There may also be a perceived risk of contagion when using cash or non-contactless payment mechanisms due to proximity to another person.

However this pandemic could speed up the shift towards digital payments, which could open a divide in access to payments instruments, and that could have a negative impact on the unbanked and older consumers. Some central banks are urging continued acceptance.

From May to August 2020 EAST ran a poll on this topic, for which the results can be seen in the chart below:

  • The majority of the respondents (50%) would use contactless payments whenever possible
  • 25% are using a mix of payment mechanisms but prefer not to use cash unless they have to
  • 9% are still mainly using cash
  • 8% are using a mix of payment mechanisms but are happy to use cash whenever they need to
  • 8% have not used cash and don’t plan to

Corporate Network Attacks

Corporate Network AttacksIn August 2020 EAST published Central/Host Fraud definitions which cover corporate attacks against central infrastructure like banking host systems in order to perform different Modus Operandi not directly connected to a Terminal.  These definitions were produced by the EAST Expert Group on All Terminal Fraud (EGAF).

The compromise of a corporate network is the first step with these types of incidents.  This can be done by external attackers as well as by internal employees of the institution.  Attackers typically try to get access to this critical infrastructure, enabling the three different Corporate Networks Attacks shown below.

  • Card Processing
  • Fund Transfer
  • Remote Malware Distribution and Control

The third one relates to control of a financial institution’s network leading to illegitimate file distribution in order to install and execute ATM specific malware.  The different malware Modus Operandi actually used within the corporate network attack can be Jackpotting (also known as ATM Cash-out), Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) and SW-Skimming.  These are described in EAST’s Terminal Fraud Definitions.

In October 2020 The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) released a bulletin ‘The Threat Of ATM Cash-Outs Payment Security’.

EAST Executive Director Lachlan Gunn speaks to Jeremy King, the PCI SSC Regional Head for Europe and Otto de Jong, Chair of EAST EGAF and DBNL Anti-Fraud Officer for ING.

Lachlan Gunn:  Thank you both for agreeing to speak today on this key issue.

Why did EAST produce Central/Host Fraud Definitions?

Otto de Jong:  It is vital that the way that corporate network attacks are described is consistent to allow law enforcement and industry responders to accurately report what they are seeing in a way that allows for standardisation of reporting.  This optimises the ability of organisations to mitigate and defend against the evolving threats and helps law enforcement when conducting follow up investigations to such crimes.  The aim is for these fraud definitions to be adopted globally by the Industry and Law enforcement when describing or reporting payment terminal fraud.  The INTERPOL Financial Crimes Unit is recommending the usage of EAST definitions for Payment Card Fraud, and we hope that other law enforcement agencies will do the same.

Why did the PCI Security Standards Council issue an industry threat bulletin on ATM Cash-outs?

Jeremy King: We have heard from many of our stakeholders in the European payment community that ATM “cash-outs” are a growing concern across the globe. We felt, as a leader in payment security, now was the time to issue a bulletin with our friends and colleagues from the ATMIA who’s industry is well aware of these daily threats.

Otto de Jong:  This is indeed timely.  The most recent EAST Payment Terminal Crime Report shows that ‘cash-out’ through black box attacks is a growing threat.  ATM malware and logical attacks against ATMs were up 269% (from 35 to 129) and all the reported attacks were Black Box attacks.

What businesses are at risk of this devious attack?

Jeremy King: Financial institutions, and payment processors are most at financial risk and likely to be the target of these large-scale, coordinated attacks. These institutions stand to potentially lose millions of dollars in a very short time period and can have exposure in multiple countries throughout Europe and around the world as the result of this highly organised, well-orchestrated criminal attack.

Otto de Jong: In addition to financial institutions and payment processors, recent corporate network attacks have demonstrated that this is also a threat to key infrastructure companies like utility companies, universities, hospitals and so on.   This year the corporate network attack threat is evolving from targeting the payment system (cash out or swift transactions) to ransomware attacks (bitcoins).

What are some detection best practices to detect these threats before they can cause damage?

Jeremy King: Since ATM ‘cash-out’ attacks can happen quickly and drain millions of dollars in a short period of time, the ability to detect these threats before they can cause damage is critical. Some ways to detect this type of attack are:

  • Velocity monitoring of underlying accounts and volume
  • 24/7 monitoring capabilities including File Integrity Monitoring Systems (FIMs)
  • Reporting system that sounds the alarm immediately when suspicious activity is identified
  • Development and practice of an incident response management system
  • Check for unexpected traffic sources (e.g. IP addresses)
  • Look for unauthorized execution of network tools

Otto de Jong: Monitoring systems can also be compromised.  Checking of related monitoring mechanisms, such as globally operated by card schemes, can be helpful to identify this kind of attack.

What are some prevention best practices to stop this attack from happening in the first place?

Jeremy King: The best protection to mitigate against ATM ‘cash-outs’ is to adopt a layered defence that includes people, processes, and technology. Some recommendations to prevent ATM ‘cash-outs’ include:

  • Strong access controls to your systems and identification of third-party risks
  • Employee monitoring systems to guard against an “inside job”
  • Continuous phishing training for employees
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Strong password management
  • Require layers of authentication/approval for remote changes to account balances and transaction limits
  • Implementation of required security patches in a timely manner (ASAP)
  • Regular penetration testing
  • Frequent reviews of access control mechanisms and access privileges
  • Strict separation of roles that have privileged access to ensure no one user ID can perform sensitive functions
  • Installation of file integrity monitoring software that can also serve as a detection mechanism
  • Strict adherence to the entire PCI DSS

Otto de Jong: In addition, every institution with an IT infrastructure should perform a threat risk assessment to spot weakness in their system.  This should be evaluated on an annual basis.  Performing penetration tests annually by independent assessors must be part of such an assessment.

Lachlan Gunn:  That concludes the Q&A session.  Many thanks again to you both.  Hopefully this will help to further raise awareness of the risks posed by corporate network attacks, what can be done to detect them, how to protect against them and also how to classify attacks to allow for accurate reporting and follow up by law enforcement and the industry.

Viewpoint: Biometric ATMs

Would you use a biometric solution to authorise an ATM transaction?  According to the latest EAST research poll the majority would now use such technology, but for many this would only be after a full explanation as to how their personal data would be controlled.

Biometric ATMs are well established in Japan, where tens of thousands are in operation, and their usage is spreading in other countries – banks in Hong Kong, Qatar, Poland, South Africa and Taiwan are also deploying the technology. A common system is ‘finger vein’ identification technology. The transaction is authorised by a finger scan, rather than by entering a PIN. The finger vein technology maps the internal vein system within a finger, and will only accept a living finger, meaning that authentication requires the customer to be present in person each and every time.

From September to December 2019 EAST ran a poll on this topic for which he results can be seen in the chart below.


  • The majority of the respondents (53%) would only use such technology after full explanation as to how their personal data will be held and controlled
  • 26% would be happy to use such technology in place of their PIN
  • 21% would not use such technology due to concerns about personal data privacy

This is a significant change from a similar poll on Biometric ATMs that EAST ran in 2010, when 50% of the respondents said that they would not use such technology due to concerns about personal data privacy, 27% were happy to use such technology, and 23% would only use such technology after full explanation as to how their personal data will be held and controlled.


Viewpoint: Payment Security

Payment security is relevant to all cardholders.  According to the latest EAST research, the majority would contact their bank with an issue.

Most of us use payment cards on a regular basis for online transactions and for transactions at payment terminals.  Having something happen to your card while using a payment terminal can therefore be a great inconvenience.  For example a card can be retained by an ATM – while this might be at the request of your bank, it can it can also be due to fraudulent activity such as card trapping.  Also your card might be compromised at a terminal due to card skimming, or it might be compromised due to a data breach at a third party.

From January to April 2019 EAST ran a poll which asked the question ‘If you had a payment card related issue while using a payment terminal (ATM, POS or UPT) which party would you be most likely to contact?’  The results can be seen in the chart below.

Payment Security

  • The majority of the respondents (80%) would contact their card issuing bank
  • 12% would contact a central fraud line
  • 4% would contact the owner of the payment terminal or the merchant where payment was done
  • 4% would directly contact the police

Viewpoint: Contactless transactions

Contactless transactions are increasingly used as the payment landscape continues to evolve.  Cardholders are enjoying faster payments and the ability to pay how they want, either using a card, or NFC if their smartphone has the required app. The ability to Tap & Go is convenient for both cardholders and retailers. As no PIN is required for a contactless transaction (up to the floor limit allowed in the market), there are risks if a contactless card or NFC enabled device is lost or stolen.

From September to December 2018 EAST ran a poll which asked the question ‘What is most important to you when making a contactless transaction?’  The results can be seen in the chart below.

contactless transactions

  • The majority of the respondents felt that ‘security and speed’ was most important – 41% feeling that a PIN is required for larger transactions over an agreed limit and 28% feeling that a PIN is required only after a user-defined amount limit.
  • 17% felt that speed alone was most important, and that a PIN was not required
  • 8% felt that security was most important and that a PIN should be used for all contactless transactions.
  • 6% chose speed and security, feeling that no PIN should be required when shopping at specified merchants