In Wallet We Trust: Bypassing the Digital Wallets Payment Security for Free Shopping


Raja Hasnain Anwar, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Syed Rafiul Hussain, Pennsylvania State University; Muhammad Taqi Raza, University of Massachusetts Amherst

This paper is currently under embargo, but the paper abstract is available now. The final paper PDF will be available on the first day of the conference.


Digital wallets are a new form of payment technology that provides a secure and convenient way of making contactless payments through smart devices. In this paper, we study the security of financial transactions made through digital wallets, focusing on the authentication, authorization, and access control security functions. We find that the digital payment ecosystem supports the decentralized authority delegation which is susceptible to a number of attacks. First, an attacker adds the victim's bank card into their (attacker's) wallet by exploiting the authentication method agreement procedure between the wallet and the bank. Second, they exploit the unconditional trust between the wallet and the bank, and bypass the payment authorization. Third, they create a trap door through different payment types and violate the access control policy for the payments. The implications of these attacks are of a serious nature where the attacker can make purchases of arbitrary amounts by using the victim's bank card, despite these cards being locked and reported to the bank as stolen by the victim. We validate these findings in practice over major US banks (notably Chase, AMEX, Bank of America, and others) and three digital wallet apps (ApplePay, GPay, and PayPal). We have disclosed our findings to all the concerned parties. Finally, we propose remedies for fixing the design flaws to avoid these and other similar attacks.

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