Oct 21 2008   1:58PM GMT

ATMs with Bugs – At the Grocery Store

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

From the Wall Street Journal comes the disturbing news that a high-tech wireless “bug” has been found in hundreds of grocery store ATMs in five different European countries. According to WSJ:

Examining the store’s credit-card readers, investigators discovered a high-tech bug tucked behind the motherboard. It was small card containing wireless communication technology.

The bug reads an individual’s card number and the corresponding personal identification number, then packages and stores the data. The device would once a day call a number in Lahore to upload the data to servers there and obtain instructions on what to steal next.

The easiest way police have been finding these things is to weigh the ATM, although the bug (a card, actually, and I think has to be plugged into the motherboard) only weighs about 4 ounces. How many more will they find? Now that ATM fraudsters can go “upscale” to a wireless bug instead of a clumsy card skimmer, theft becomes even easier. These bugs are big enough to be programmable, so that they could only collect information from Platinum level cards, for instance, instead of my Uncle Bert’s VISA card.

Although the article does not address debit cards, I would have to wonder what the impact was on those? Did they escape due to the lack of PIN capture? Possibly.

The first solution I would think of would be to lock down the phone line so that it ONLY can dial home (and not to Lahore to deliver its’ payload). Not only that, log and report any attempts to dial elsewhere.

This is a VERY sophisticated attack, and appears to be widespread. Early estimates indicate a theft between 50 to 100 million dollars.

Just who has had access to the inside of those machines, that were built in China? How are they secured? The report mentions that the bug is “attached behind to the motherboard.” Somebody has some inside knowledge of this equipment and has used that knowledge to quite an effect.

Thieves keep getting smarter.

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