German jailed for Bluetooth-enabled PIN stealing kit

Lips sealed on laptop password to conceal evidence.

A 26 year-old German man has been sentenced to three years imprisonment for rigging retail card payment consoles to transmit captured card details and PINs over Bluetooth.

Thomas Beeckmann was arrested in London this June in possession of several circuit boards that London’s Metropolitan Police believed were previously installed on compromised devices in Holland and Belgium.

Beeckman supplied the circuit boards and an installation service to organised crime groups operating throughout Europe. His customers supplied him with stolen payment units, which he would fit with his Bluetooth-enabled capture equipment.

The customers would then re-install the rigged devices in the stores they were originally stolen from, allowing them to pair up with the unit and remotely access the stored data via Bluetooth.

Prosecutors said they could download the data up to 100 metres away, according to the BBC.  While most Bluetooth devices can only transmit a few metres, “class 1” Bluetooth dongles are capable of transmitting data this far.

“Beeckmann's knowledge was so sophisticated that the printed circuit boards he inserted in to the PED (PIN entry device) recorded the data and then, on request by a nearby OCN (organised crime network) member, downloaded the data via Bluetooth,” the Met said in a statement.

The major advantage of his kit over traditional card skimming gear was that the tampered device did not need to be handled again in order to acquire the recorded data. Similar “store and forward” cases relying on Bluetooth were reported in the US last year.

The German electronics engineer pleaded guilty under the UK’s Fraud Act in September, but he also breached the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 by refusing to give investigators the password to his encrypted laptop.

This prevented police acquiring further evidence which could have led to more serious charges, according to the Daily Mail.

It was never discovered how much Beeckman made of the enterprise, but he earned enough to support his wife and two children who were residing in Thailand, according to the Met.

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