Gemalto Offers Fix for German Payment Card Date Bug

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Smart card vendor Gemalto said Wednesday it is distributing a software fix to banks for a programming glitch that caused millions of German payment cards to stop working.

But it may be several weeks before the software is fully deployed by the banks, according to Rémi Calvet, Gemalto spokesman.

"It will take a bit of time," Calvet said. "We have done our best to work with our banking customers to ensure the security issue is addressed."

The programming problem, discovered last week, was related to an end-of-year date change to 2010. Up to 20 million ATM cards, known as Girocards or EC cards in Germany, and 3.5 million credit cards are affected, the German Savings Banks and Giro Association (DSGV) said.

DSGV approved Gemalto's software fix on Jan. 7. The software fix will in part be implemented as people put their cards into ATMs and point-of-sale devices, although Calvet said he could not release further details.

The software fix avoided the need to replace payment cards, which could have been expensive for banks.

Gemalto estimated that the payment card fiasco could cost the company between €6 million to €10 million (US$8.7 million to $14.5 million).

Gemalto couldn't say exactly how many cards were affected. Most of the cards were issued by German financial institutions. DSGV has recommended that people keep enough cash on hand just in case their cards don't work.

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