LOS ANGELES, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- A team of U.S. computer scientists has developed an app that allows state and federal inspectors to detect devices that steal consumer credit and debit card data at gas pumps, according to a release of University of California, San Diego, on Wednesday.
The devices, known as skimmers, use Bluetooth to transmit the data they steal.
"All criminals have to do is download the data from the comfort of their vehicle," said Nishant Bhaskar, a Ph.D. student in computer science at the UC San Diego and the study's first author.
The new app, called Bluetana, detects the Bluetooth signature of the skimmers, and allows inspectors to find the devices without needing to open up the gas pumps.
Bluetana was developed by scientists at UC San Diego and the University of Illinois with technical input from the United States Secret Service, and is only available to law enforcement officials and gas pump inspectors.
It is now used by agencies in several states, and will not be available to the general public, according to the release.
"Our goal is to give field agents the best tools for the job available today," said Kirill Levchenko, a computer science professor at the University of Illinois. "We've found that Bluetana helps agents find more gas stations with skimmers--and to find more skimmers at those gas stations."
The researchers found that, compared to similar apps currently available for smartphones, Bluetana is likely to discover more skimmers and results in a much lower false positive rate.
In one year of operation, Bluetana has led to the discovery of 42 Bluetooth-based skimmers across three U.S. states, all of which were recovered by law enforcement agents, according to the release.