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Science
23 Apr 2017

Guarding against ATM hacking

How ATM cards are hacked

In 2016, India witnessed a massive financial data breach affecting thousands of customers.

Over 32 lakh debit cards (some reports say 62 lakh) of 19 banks across India were hacked.

Some of these banks included top banks in the country including the State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Yes Bank, and Axis Bank among others.

We look at how this hacking happens.

In context

How ATM cards are hacked
Card skimmers and additional readers

Hacking methods #1

Card skimmers and additional readers

Sometimes hackers install devices called "card skimmers" in card reader slot which either copy information from the magnetic strip of ATM cards or steal the card itself.

Another method includes having an additional card reader slot placed atop the original one - one way to detect this is by noticing whether the card reader slot feels bulky or misaligned.

Hacking methods #2

Lebanese loops and false fronts

When ATM card reading slots appear to be loose, it probably indicates the presence of a loose slot with a 'Lebanese loop' which is a small plastic device which holds an ATM card back - customers might be fooled into thinking that the ATM has swallowed the card.

False fronts may also cover the original ATM machine allowing hackers to steal PINs and money.

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Fake keypads and hidden cameras

Hacking methods #3

Fake keypads and hidden cameras

Other methods include installing a fake keypad atop the original ATM machine keypad - if the keypad feels spongy or loose, it's wise not to enter your PIN.

Lastly, and the most difficult to detect, is the presence of hidden pinhole cameras placed either on the ATM machine or in the ATM booth which records videos of customers entering their PINs.

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