Short Paper: Making Contactless EMV Robust Against Rogue Readers Colluding with Relay Attackers

  • Tom Chothia
  • Ioana BoureanuEmail author
  • Liqun Chen
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11598)


It is possible to relay signals between a contactless EMV card and a shop’s EMV reader and so make a fraudulent payment without the card-owner’s knowledge. Existing countermeasures rely on proximity checking: the reader will measure round trip times in message-exchanges, and will reject replies that take longer than expected (which suggests they have been relayed). However, it is the reader that would receive the illicit payment from any relayed transaction, so a rogue reader has little incentive to enforce the required checks. Furthermore, cases of malware targeting point-of-sales systems are common. We propose three novel proximity-checking protocols that use a trusted platform module (TPM) to ensure that the reader performs the time-measurements correctly. After running one of our proposed protocols, the bank can be sure that the card and reader were in close proximity, even if the reader tries to subvert the protocol. Our first protocol makes changes to the cards and readers, our second modifies the readers and the banking backend, and our third allows the detection of relay attacks, after they have happened, with only changes to the readers.



The authors acknowledge the support of the NCSC-funded “TimeTrust” project. The authors also thank all anonymous reviewers, as well as Urs Hengartner for helpful comments. Also, Ioana Boureanu thanks Anda Anda for interesting discussions on this topic.


  1. 1.
    Brands, S., Chaum, D.: Distance-bounding protocols. In: Helleseth, T. (ed.) EUROCRYPT 1993. LNCS, vol. 765, pp. 344–359. Springer, Heidelberg (1994). Scholar
  2. 2.
    Brzuska, C., Smart, N.P., Warinschi, B., Watson, G.J.: An analysis of the EMV channel establishment protocol. In: Conference on Computer & Communications Security (2013)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Chothia, T., de Ruiter, J., Smyth, B.: Modelling and analysis of a hierarchy of distance bounding attacks. In: 27th USENIX Security Symposium, USENIX Security 2018 (2018)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Chothia, T., Garcia, F.D., de Ruiter, J., van den Breekel, J., Thompson, M.: Relay cost bounding for contactless EMV payments. In: Böhme, R., Okamoto, T. (eds.) FC 2015. LNCS, vol. 8975, pp. 189–206. Springer, Heidelberg (2015). Scholar
  5. 5.
    EMVCo. Book C-2 kernel 2 specification v2.7. EMV contactless specifications for payment system, February 2018Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Boureanu, I., Mitrokotsa, A., Vaudenay, S.: Practical and provably secure distance-bounding. J. Comput. Secur. 23(2), 229–257 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Shu, X., Tian, K., Ciambrone, A., Yao, D. Breaking the target: an analysis of target data breach and lessons learned. CoRR, abs/1701.04940 (2017)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Trusted Computing Group: Trusted Platform Module Library Family 2.0, Specification - Part 1: Architecture, Revision 1.38 and Part 3: Commands, Revision 1.38 (2016)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Financial Cryptography Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Computer ScienceUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK

Personalised recommendations