How Cybercriminals are Hacking ATM Machines? Here’s a Quick Look

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Security researchers have published a report on the modus operandi of the cybercriminals who are using malware, a key from eBay, and a Raspberry Pi to hack ATMs. Here’s how they’re doing it. 

The Modus Operandi

Cybercriminals exploit the vulnerabilities in the operating system of the computers responsible for running the ATMs. Unfortunately, the operating system inside the computers isn’t as secured as the enclosure the computer sits in. Windows 7 is the most common operating system; however, Windows XP is also widely used. These are outdated operating systems that should have made to retire a long time ago. 

Threat actors purchase malware packages from the dark web to exploit the vulnerabilities in these operating systems and to interact with the ATM software. Some of the malware packs contain compromised proprietary software belonging to ATM manufacturers.

Before hacking the ATM, cybercriminals mark the ATMs in a city, and the ones with the high use are targeted. Attacks are typically planned for days such as Black Friday or Valentine’s Day when ATMs are loaded with up to 20 percent more money than usual. ATMs are also loaded with extra money in the weeks leading up to Christmas because many people receive their yearly or Christmas bonus in their pay.

Choice of ATM Brands and Malware Installation 

The popular names in ATM manufacturing are Diebold Nixdorf, Wincor Nixdorf, NCR, Triton, and Hitachi-Omron. Cybercriminals are very specific in their targets because the knowledge of ATM hardware helps threat actors to buy the appropriate malware and the appropriate key to open the ATM enclosure.

The USB ports on ATMs are restricted and will only accept a connection from a keyboard or a mouse. This is to allow servicemen to perform maintenance on the units. You would have loaded the malware onto your Raspberry Pi, and obtained a battery so that it can run as a portable unit. The malware is written in a way that convinces the ATM that the Raspberry Pi is a keyboard. Stored commands tumble out of the Raspberry Pi into the ATM, and the ATM dutifully follows them. 

Another way is to insert a USB memory stick into the ATM and reboot it off an operating system in the memory stick. When the ATM has booted, threat actors can install the malware directly into the ATM’s currently dormant operating system. When they reboot the ATM using its regular operating system they can control the malware by inserting a specially created card, or via a secret key combination on the ATM’s keypad.

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