Jackpotting attacks on ATMs have been spreading through Europe and Asia for quite some time now. Recently, though, Brian Kreps reported that the Secret Service has warned of jackpotting scams hitting the United States.
How it works
First, an attacker performs some basic scouting to figure out a way into the ATM, usually targeting models with front-facing panels. To avoid detection, the thieves have been posing as ATM technicians.
Once the vulnerable area within the ATM is determined, scammers attach their own computers to mirror the ATM’s software. The thieves then install malware, which conveniently places the ATM under their control. At this point, the ATM will appear to be out of service and the scammers can force the machine to do their bidding from a remote location.
The criminals then program the ATMs to spit out piles of cash and will send “money mules” to collect the cash for them. Alternately, scammers may bide their time and only take action some time later. They will then return to the compromised ATM and program it to dispense all of its cash at once – which they will promptly pocket.
What you can do
ATM jackpotting targets the machine’s owners and generally does not affect the common citizen. However, you can do your part to stop these crooks by reporting any suspicious activity you see near an ATM. Did you spot a technician who looks out of place? Is a machine that worked just fine yesterday suddenly out of service? If so, alert the local authorities so they can take appropriate action.
Jackpotting aside, it’s always a good idea to exercise caution when using an ATM in a public setting. Here are some tips to remember the next time you use an ATM:
- Always cover the keypad with your free hand when inputting your PIN.
- If someone is lurking near the ATM for no apparent reason, do not use it.
- Be wary of signs that the ATM may have been tampered with, such as a new-looking keypad, a card reader that looks different than the rest of the machine or an out-of-place security camera.
- Don’t use ATMs in unfamiliar neighborhoods or in stores you never frequent.
- If you’re withdrawing cash, secure your money in a wallet immediately after it’s dispensed.
While the full impact of these jackpotting attacks is not yet evident, the Secret Service is definitely not taking the trend lightly. Neither should you.