ATM Thieves Target Stand-Alone Machines in 'Jackpotting' Scheme

By Crosman, Penny | American Banker, January 30, 2018 | Go to article overview

ATM Thieves Target Stand-Alone Machines in 'Jackpotting' Scheme


Crosman, Penny, American Banker


Byline: Penny Crosman

A type of ATM attack popular in Mexico recently is making its way to the United States.

While bank-run ATMs don't appear to be affected so far, older, front-loaded cash machines are vulnerable to the attack, according to an alert the Secret Service has sent to financial firms and ATM manufacturers.

The crime is known as "jackpotting," a method in which thieves, pretending to be repairmen, break directly into ATMs, install malicious software or hardware that makes the machines spit out cash. Security blogger Brian Krebs first reported on the attacks on U.S. ATMs on Friday.

According to a Secret Service alert Krebs acquired, the victim ATMs tend to be located in pharmacies, big box retailers, and drive-thru ATMs. Krebs noted that these machines lack the security and round-the-clock monitoring of ATMs installed at financial institutions.

The thieves apparently are going after Diebold Opteva 500 and 700 series cash machines in remote, stand-alone locations. They gain physical access to the cash machine, then use jackpotting malware referred to as Ploutus and specialized electronics to control the operations of the ATM.

The attackers "typically use an endoscope -- a slender, flexible instrument traditionally used in medicine to give physicians a look inside the human body -- to locate the internal portion of the cash machine where they can attach a cord that allows them to sync their laptop with the ATM's computer," Krebs wrote. "Once this is complete, the ATM is controlled by the fraudsters and the ATM will appear 'out of service to potential customers.' " Co-conspirators will then remotely control the ATMs and force them to dispense cash.

"From there, the attackers can attach a physical keyboard to connect to the machine, and use an activation code provided by the boss in charge of the operation in order to dispense money from the ATM," he wrote. "Once deployed to an ATM, Ploutus makes it possible for criminals to obtain thousands of dollars in minutes. While there are some risks of the money mule being caught by cameras, the speed in which the operation is carried out minimizes the mule's risk."

After the cash is taken from the ATM and the mule leaves, the phony technicians return to the site and remove their equipment from the compromised ATM, according to the Secret Service alert,

"The last thing the fraudsters do before leaving the site is to plug the Ethernet cable back in," the Secret Service alert notes. …

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