Protecting our data is a constant battle, especially as technology continues to advance. A recent trend that has popped up is the installation of credit card skimmers, especially at locations such as gas pumps. With a simple piece of hardware and 30 seconds to install it, a hacker can easily steal credit card numbers from a gas pump without anyone knowing. Now, an open-source app for Android is attempting to help users avoid these skimmers.

The CEO of SparkFun, Nate Seidle, partnered with programmer Nick Poole to develop “Skimmer Scanner.” This free, open-source Android app is built to detect credit card skimmers that are used most popularly in the area around your phone, specifically at a gas station.

Skimmers are commonly used at gas stations for a number of reasons, primarily because of how easy they are to install. Hackers only need their skimmer which costs about $10 and a master-key for the pump. Obtaining that key isn’t very hard either, as there are only a few variations that work for most pumps. Once installed, the skimmer does its work completely silently, and the hacker simply needs to return and connect over Bluetooth to grab the stolen card numbers.

Using your phone’s Bluetooth radio, Skimmer Scanner searches for a specific Bluetooth signal that is emitted by these skimmers, attempts to establish a connection, and then verifies if there is, in fact, a skimmer in the vicinity. It does this by using the default ID used by popular skimmers to search for them. What’s interesting is that, in a lot of cases, these skimmers aren’t secured or altered since the hackers will install them in “bulk.”

Skimmer Scanner is available now on Google Play, and you can also go check out the full blog post over on SparkFun’s website for more information. If you’ve ever run into this problem yourself or are simply interested in how this tech works, I highly recommend giving it a read.

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Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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