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Discovery at Wash U could lead to more secure credit card payments

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A discovery made by two Washington University scientists could play a role in preventing credit card fraud.

Marcel Muller and Ron Indeck were attempting to shrink bits of data onto a hard drive in the mid-1990s when they learned that magnetic media has what amounts to a fingerprint.

Tiny signals are present on the magnetic medium that comprises both hard drives and the strips on the back of credit cards. If the unique fingerprint on those strips is compared to fingerprints in a database, fraud can be detected.

California-based MagTek has adopted the technology, seeding the market with millions of card readers that can detect the fingerprints. The company's chief executive says the technology just needs to be "turned on" and used.

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