Most customers interface with their financial institutions using automated teller machines (ATMs), which have security issues. However, there are solutions available to combat all current security threats, and the cost of protection is coming down.

The ATM industry is therefore in a position to minimize losses, while ensuring consumers continue to get the vital cash they need to lead their daily lives. It is important for the ATM industry to constantly innovate to meet new security challenges. So what innovations are we going to see in the next five years?


Contactless Technology

Contactless technology will be a great help against ATM skimming, in which criminals steal personal information at ATM machines. Contactless is already being used in some European countries, and the number is increasing. Not having to insert a card into the ATM removes the opportunity to trap cards and also gets around the problem of “foreign” devices installed to read cards. So contactless technology, which some saw as the end of cash, can help make ATMs and cash more secure.

Biometrics are certain to be used increasingly to bolster ATM security. Finger, palm, vein, iris and facial recognition all have potential in this respect. Any of these may in the future be used with or without cards, PINs and one-time codes. Speed of operation in relation to biometrics could ultimately govern their use at ATMs. There may also be privacy issues that need to be addressed.

The ATM vestibule environment must add security with proper security and surveillance equipment. ATM vestibules, or lobbies, are installed for many good reasons. For one, more convenient, 24/7 locations equals better customer retention for a bank, offering comfort and convenience. 24/7 access to ATMs, night drops, coin counters, online banking kiosks, and other self-service solutions are very much in demand. Second, ATM vestibules protect customers from inclement weather and provide a more comfortable banking environment (however, vagrancy can be an issue; therefore ATM vestibules should require card access). Security and surveillance solutions can’t just be for show.

ATMs And Crime

A new crime wave is hitting automated teller machines (ATMs); the common banking appliances are being rigged to spit out their entire cash supplies into a criminal’s waiting hands.

The crime is called “ATM jackpotting” and has targeted banking machines located in grocery shops, pharmacies and other locations in Taiwan, Europe, Latin America and the United States. Rough estimates place the total amount of global losses at up to $60 million.

The Protection Of ATMs

ATMs in supermarkets and pharmacies tend to be targeted because they may not be as well-protected, and store personnel likely would not know who is authorized to work on the ATM. In contrast, anyone approaching an ATM at a bank location would be more likely to be challenged.

ATM jackpotting originated back in 2010 when Barnaby Jack, a New Zealand hacker and computer expert, demonstrated how he could exploit two ATMs and make them dispense cash on the stage at the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas. Since then, malware has been created and made available on the “Dark Web” that can instruct an ATM to dispense all its cash on demand.

ATM Jackpotting

ATM jackpotting is a combination of a physical crime and a cyberattack. Typically, a criminal with a fake ID enters a grocery shop or pharmacy posing as an ATM technician, then uses a crowbar to open the top of the ATM – the “top hat” – to gain access to the personal computer that operates the machine.

Once he or she has access to the PC, they remove the hard drive, disable any anti-virus software, install a malware program, replace the hard drive and then reboot the computer. The whole operation takes about 30 seconds. The malware then enables the thief to remotely control the ATM and direct it to dispense all its cash on command.

If a legitimate customer approaches the machine in the meantime, it can operate as usual until activated otherwise by the malware.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Anderson Editor, &

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SecurityInformed's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

In case you missed it

Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security
Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security

At an Oldsmar, Fla., water treatment facility on Feb. 5, an operator watched a computer screen as someone remotely accessed the system monitoring the water supply and increased the amount of sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million. The chemical, also known as lye, is used in small concentrations to control acidity in the water. In larger concentrations, the compound is poisonous – the same corrosive chemical used to eat away at clogged drains. The impact of cybersecurity attacks The incident is the latest example of how cybersecurity attacks can translate into real-world, physical security consequences – even deadly ones.Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. The computer system was set up to allow remote access only to authorized users. The source of the unauthorized access is unknown. However, the attacker was only in the system for 3 to 5 minutes, and an operator corrected the concentration back to 100 parts per million soon after. It would have taken a day or more for contaminated water to enter the system. In the end, the city’s water supply was not affected. There were other safeguards in place that would have prevented contaminated water from entering the city’s water supply, which serves around 15,000 residents. The remote access used for the attack was disabled pending an investigation by the FBI, Secret Service and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. On Feb. 2, a compilation of breached usernames and passwords, known as COMB for “Compilation of Many Breaches,” was leaked online. COMB contains 3.2 billion unique email/password pairs. It was later discovered that the breach included the credentials for the Oldsmar water plant. Water plant attacks feared for years Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that the attempt to poison the water supply should be treated as a “matter of national security.” “The incident at the Oldsmar water treatment plant is a reminder that our nation’s critical infrastructure is continually at risk; not only from nation-state attackers, but also from malicious actors with unknown motives and goals,” comments Mieng Lim, VP of Product Management at Digital Defense Inc., a provider of vulnerability management and threat assessment solutions.The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online “Our dependency on critical infrastructure – power grids, utilities, water supplies, communications, financial services, emergency services, etc. – on a daily basis emphasizes the need to ensure the systems are defended against any adversary,” Mieng Lim adds. “Proactive security measures are crucial to safeguard critical infrastructure systems when perimeter defenses have been compromised or circumvented. We have to get back to the basics – re-evaluate and rebuild security protections from the ground up.” "This event reinforces the increasing need to authenticate not only users, but the devices and machine identities that are authorized to connect to an organization's network,” adds Chris Hickman, Chief Security Officer at digital identity security vendor Keyfactor. “If your only line of protection is user authentication, it will be compromised. It's not necessarily about who connects to the system, but what that user can access once they're inside. "If the network could have authenticated the validity of the device connecting to the network, the connection would have failed because hackers rarely have possession of authorized devices. This and other cases of hijacked user credentials can be limited or mitigated if devices are issued strong, crypto-derived, unique credentials like a digital certificate. In this case, it looks like the network had trust in the user credential but not in the validity of the device itself. Unfortunately, this kind of scenario is what can happen when zero trust is your end state, not your beginning point." “The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online for the first time as part of digital transformation projects,” says Gareth Williams, Vice President - Secure Communications & Information Systems, Thales UK. “While the move towards greater automation and connected switches and control systems brings unprecedented opportunities, it is not without risk, as anything that is brought online immediately becomes a target to be hacked.” Operational technology to mitigate attacks Williams advises organizations to approach Operational Technology as its own entity and put in place procedures that mitigate against the impact of an attack that could ultimately cost lives. This means understanding what is connected, who has access to it and what else might be at risk should that system be compromised, he says. “Once that is established, they can secure access through protocols like access management and fail-safe systems.”  “The cyberattack against the water supply in Oldsmar should come as a wakeup call,” says Saryu Nayyar, CEO, Gurucul.  “Cybersecurity professionals have been talking about infrastructure vulnerabilities for years, detailing the potential for attacks like this, and this is a near perfect example of what we have been warning about,” she says.  Although this attack was not successful, there is little doubt a skilled attacker could execute a similar infrastructure attack with more destructive results, says Nayyar. Organizations tasked with operating and protecting critical public infrastructure must assume the worst and take more serious measures to protect their environments, she advises. Fortunately, there were backup systems in place in Oldsmar. What could have been a tragedy instead became a cautionary tale. Both physical security and cybersecurity professionals should pay attention.

What Are The Positive And Negative Effects Of COVID-19 To Security?
What Are The Positive And Negative Effects Of COVID-19 To Security?

The COVID-19 global pandemic had a life-changing impact on all of us in 2020, including a multi-faceted jolt on the physical security industry. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see more clearly the exact nature and extent of that impact. And it’s not over yet: The pandemic will continue to be top-of-mind in 2021. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What have been the positive and negative effects of Covid-19 on the physical security industry in 2020? What impact will it have on 2021?

Expert Roundup: Healthy Buildings, Blockchain, AI, Skilled Workers, And More
Expert Roundup: Healthy Buildings, Blockchain, AI, Skilled Workers, And More

Our Expert Panel Roundtable is an opinionated group. However, for a variety of reasons, we are sometimes guilty of not publishing their musings in a timely manner. At the end of 2020, we came across several interesting comments among those that were previously unpublished. Following is a catch-all collection of those responses, addressing some of the most current and important issues in the security marketplace in 2021.