Security blogger Brian Krebs broke the headline-grabbing story “Gang Used 3D Printers for ATM Skimmers.”
In the blog, Krebs reported that a Texas federal court had indicted four men for using ATM skimmers crafted via high-tech 3D printers to loot some $400,000 from branches of Chase and Unity National. No credit union is specified in the indictment.
The amount stolen is not especially eye-catching but the technology is–and the emergence of 3D printing in the skimming arsenal just may be a game changer, Ben Knieff, director of product marketing at financial crime consultancy NICE Actimize, told Credit Union Times. “3D printers have the ability to produce skimmers very quickly and inexpensively,” said Knieff. “Lower budget criminals now can afford this technology.”
He added, “The technology also will enable criminals to react very quickly to any security changes implemented by ATM manufacturers.”
In the traditional cat and mouse of bank robbers and security personnel, 3D printers just may be a big go-ahead for the criminals.
And all this just may spell the end of the traditional mag stripe card, suggested Knieff.
But, first, the details of the 3D printer explosion.
Price is why they are catching on. Best guesses are that $5,000 to $10,000 now will buy a 3D printer capable of producing ATM skimmers.
The money buys proven technology. 3D printing just now is gaining a foothold but is well established technology where a specialty printer literally prints a three-dimensional object such as a tree ornament, a child’s toy, or–perhaps–an ATM skimmer.
European 3D printer maker iMaterialise has in fact blogged about an order it received last year for what its engineers decided was a skimmer. It declined the request.
But with lower prices, savvy criminals now can just buy their own 3D printers, suggested Knieff.
Presently skimmers are readily available at online criminal boutiques, said Knieff ($150 to $300 is a typical price for a skimmer, he said), but he envisions a shift to a more bespoke and ad hoc manufacturing of skimmers on the fly, using 3D printers rather than the traditional, labor-intensive and lengthy manual manufacture and/or buying off the shelf units that may require additional modification to actually work in the intended environment.
iMaterialise’s Franky De Schouwer elaborated on just how a 3D printer could impact skimmer manufacturing: “I don’t think it would be that difficult to create an ATM skimmer with a 3D printer....For someone like, let’s say an industrial designer, it’s not harder than designing any other technical pieces.
“How long it would take to print, depends on the chosen technology. But looking at the size of the thing [the skimmer], I would say you could print that overnight.”
Collect the necessary specs and it would appear to be simple to print a new skimmer every night.
Knieff admitted that he did not see an easy fix on the part of ATM owners or manufacturers to stop what might become a deluge of 3D printer skimmers. His best suggestion is to speed up adoption of chip and pin cards which, so far, have been relatively immune to skimmer hijacks. But, he added, that won’t happen overnight in the U.S. “You can’t see EMV becoming commonplace sooner than five years,” he said. And until then the single best line of defense against skimmers, said Knieff, is “very low tech but it works. Train your ATM service employees to look for skimmers. This gets amazingly good results.”