Crime: Brute Force Is Latest Modus Operandi
The $41 million Kentucky Employees Credit Union in Frankfort, Ky., found out the hard way that ATMs continue to attract criminals. And thefts can go way beyond simple attachment of skimmers.
Skimmers, in fact, are fairly easy to look for.
Most eyes may be on skimmers, but physical assaults on ATMs, usually involving tearing the machine free of whatever secured it, are on the rise, said Mike Urban, director of financial crime risk management at Fiserv, the financial technology company. Such ATM thefts are called “ram raids” in the United Kingdom, where a truck is often used to ram into a small store and the ATM is then put in the truck and driven away to be looted at leisure. But these kinds of thefts do occur in the United States. “There are active gangs doing this, especially in the New York area,” said Urban.
That threat alone has forced ATM manufacturers to attempt to physically toughen the devices, but in many cases what they also do is provide input on where it is safer to install a device and where it is less so. A dimly lighted parking lot, for instance, is a prime temptation for ATM thieves.
That, fundamentally, is the Holy Grail of security. Developing a self-monitoring ATM that is smart enough to shut down when tampered with. When will we get there? According to Walsh, we actually are there, the technology exists and it works. Just about every ATM manufacturer has some kind of advanced self-monitoring technology. The only obstacle is the willingness, or lack thereof, of financial institutions to invest the cash to upgrade.
ATM makers also have debuted cutting-edge technologies that put an end to skimming by, for instance, using biometrics, fingerprints or palm prints, instead of PINs. That technology, too, appears to work, said the experts.