Stephen Manson

Expert in Cyber Security

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Banks And ATMs

The banking industry today are having to work harder than ever before to keep up with developments in technology and to stay one step ahead of criminals who are ready to use advanced methods to steal customers’ hard earned money. It’s no wonder then that over the last few years a raft of security measures have been put in place to help improve security at all levels of banking, from withdrawing cash from an automated teller machines to paying for goods over the counter with a debit card. So, just what measures are today’s financial institutions taking to protect us?

ATM Security

People should be careful when placing their pin-code.

ATMs have been in use for decades, however, the measures used to ensure their security have had to move with the times. Originally, the identity of the user was solved by using a piece of paper that had been printed with a slightly radioactive substance in a specific pattern. That pattern would be matched by the machine to a code which the user then entered.

Once the pair had been confirmed to be a match, the machine would dispense the required cash amount. Today, times have moved on and now customers insert their card into the reader. It then registers the data in its chip or magnetic strip before requesting the customer to enter their PIN number (personal identification number).

When the number and chip/strip are a match, customers can then deposit funds, withdraw cash or check their balance.Since ATMs naturally contain lots of cash, they’ve proved to be an attractive target for criminals. While some have tried to steal the entire ATM itself, others prefer to mug users once they’ve withdrawn their cash.

Banks have had to deal with this by building in cameras to record visual evidence and to monitor any potential tampering with the equipment.More recently, however, thieves have begun to covertly monitor ATMs and users by installing tiny cameras around the ATM, often within plastic panels which appear to be part of the equipment.

Skimmers read the information from the magnetic strip of the card.

These can capture all the necessary information to steal customers’ money, including the card number itself, its expiry date, the user’s name and the CVV number which is printed on the reverse. Fraudsters can then buy products and services online using that information.

Some thieves also use “skimmers” – an attachment which fits to the card slot to read the details on the magnetic strips of the card so they can them duplicate the card for use in another machine. Even users’ PINs aren’t safe since thermal imaging cameras (and regular cameras too) can identify the keys which have been used to withdraw funds.There has even been a worrying trend for ATM hacking.

Since the outer casing of an ATM conceals USB ports which are used to update and maintain the software, if an attacker is able to locate that hidden port they can then use a portable USB that has malicious software installed on it to take over the machine’s control. Malicious software can even be remotely installed by intercepting the telecommunication between the bank and the machine.

Although ATM theft and fraud can’t be prevented entirely, today banks are working on developing extra security measures. They are also encouraging users to take extra care by using indoor ATMs instead of street ones, and by checking the machine before using it to ensure there are no damages or alterations or hidden cameras. Users are also told to cover up the keypad when they enter their PIN to ensure it cannot be seen.

Chip And PIN

Chip and pin cards are alot more safer than regular ones.

One of the latest security measures that has been invented to help users to stay safe is to introduce chip and PIN cards. These use a sophisticated form of processing technology to identify that the card is genuine and to make counterfeiting more expensive and complex.

It works by checking the user’s entered PIN against the one which is held on the card’s chip. This then verifies the user’s identity rather than relying on checking the user’s signature. This means that if you are buying goods in a store with a stolen card you will not have the necessary information you need to process the transaction.

Shopping Online

Banks are improving security in online shopping.

One of the main areas where banks are trying to improve security is when shopping online. 3D secure is the online version of chip & PIN and has gone a long way towards ensuring that transactions are genuine. 3 Domain Secure was developed by MasterCard and Visa to improve online payment security. This tool for fraud prevention enables shoppers to assign their own password which will then be verified every time you process a transaction online.

The buyer not only needs the card data, they also need a password and this limits fraudsters with stolen card details. At the moment, not every type of card is part of the 3D Secure scheme, however it has been shown to be effective in the cases where it has been adopted.It’s clear that banks need to stay ahead of the criminals when it comes to fraud and theft, and the future will turn up new challenges and new solutions to those problems.