Hackers just need a laptop, drill machine to loot ATMs

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The entire process costs less than $15 (less than Rs 1,000).

ATMs and cash dispensing machines have often been on the receiving end of multiple hacks and attacks. While there have been incidents when the entire machine has been stolen, the machines have also been vulnerable to hacking. In a new report, Kaspersky Labs has unearthed one of the latest and simplest methods used by hackers to gain access to ATM cash. 

The new technique does not require high-end software or there is no need to steal the entire machine. The hack is extremely simple and can be easily performed with a basic laptop and a drill machine. It involves drilling a 3-inch hole close to the ATM keypad and gaining access to the internal wiring to set commands and make the ATM automatically dispense cash. Traces of the hole can easily be covered up. The technique is extremely simple and has already been widely used in ATMs across Russia and Europe.

Kasersky researchers have been able to engineer a reverse process where they could exactly identify how the crime was committed. The model hacked is one of the most common ATM machines in use and has been popular since the late 90s. Once the front panel of the ATM is removed, there is an open port which connects directly to the wire connecting the user interface to the cash dispenser. The security in the machine is quite lax and with just a simple XOR Cipher it’s easy to break in for experienced hackers.

Using the details discovered, the hackers were able to create their own computer system to feed details to the dispenser. The system worked flawlessly. The only glitch arose when the ATM’s own computer identified the external source feeding commands to the computer and rebooted to prevent the attack. However, the process kicks in only post a particular number of transactions. Also, hackers could continue to feed commands once the computer restarted and continue the process till the ATM was completely drained. ALSO READ: ATM card hack: Hitachi admits its systems were compromised

The only way to protect the ATMs is through better hardware and security. ATMs have been at the receiving end of attacks often in the past and with newer technologies coming in, hackers are inventing newer and easier ways to get away with the cash without tampering with the ATM machine.

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