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Cash machines could be subject to cyber attacks

Source: The Daily Telegraph. Author: Natasha Bernal


Carrying cash already causes stress in our country as you risk being robbed within minutes of drawing your money, other risks include your card being swallowed by a device planted in the machine by a criminal or someone peeping over your shoulder to see your pin and take your card. As machines seem to get smarter so do the criminals. Could this potentially be another threat to worry about in South Africa?

The Daily Telegraph states: Banks have been warned of an imminent threat that their cash machines could be mass-hacked by cyber criminals.

In a confidential alert on Friday, America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation told international banks that criminals are plotting a concerted global malware attack on cash machines in the next few days.

The FBI issued a warning about a highly choreographed fraud scheme known as an ATM “jackpotting”, in which crooks hack a bank or payment card processor and use cloned cards at cash machines around the world to take out millions in just a few minutes.

UK-based banks with large international operations, such as HSBC and Barclays, are among those thought to have been made aware of the threat.

“The FBI has obtained unspecified reporting indicating cyber criminals are planning to conduct a global Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cash-out scheme in the coming days, likely associated with an unknown card issuer breach,” the FBI warning said, according to Krebs on Security, which originally reported the alert.

The method usually involves physical access to a cash machine using specialised electronics and malware to take over the system and force it to dispense cash until it is empty.

Andrew Bushby, UK director at Fidelis Cybersecurity, said: “UK banks are a likely target – and this latest ‘ATM cash-out blitz’ will no doubt send shockwaves to financial institutions.”

He added: “Whilst the financial services industry is heavily regulated, it doesn’t make banks immune from being attacked by cybercriminals… UK banks need to urgently take a look at their security posture.”

Smaller, independent banks are considered the most vulnerable to such attacks, according to NCC Group, a cyber-security consultancy firm.

Ollie Whitehouse, global chief technology officer at NCC, said that criminals tend to target smaller banks that issue debit cards but which may have less stringent security systems.

“It’s a symptom of organised crime becoming more capable, as they [criminals] become emboldened they are able to do these orchestrated activities,” he said.

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