ATM Hacking Technique Makes Machines Give out Bills

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. disguise / dɪsˈgaɪz / (v) – to change one’s appearance for the purpose of pretending to be someone else

    The criminals disguised themselves as employees so they could enter the office.

  2. remotely / rɪˈmoʊt li / (adv) – from far away; not there physically

    She worked remotely even while on vacation.

  3. malware / ˈmælˌwɛər / (n) – a harmful software

    I need to update my laptop’s anti-malware program.

  4. susceptible / səˈsɛp tə bəl / (adj) – likely to be affected by something

    E-mail accounts with weak passwords are susceptible to hacking.

  5. foolproof / ˈfulˌpruf / (adj) – unlikely to go wrong

    We need a foolproof plan to make sure the event goes smoothly.


Read the text below.

Cybercriminals in the United States are hacking ATMs to force them to dispense money in a new scheme called ‘jackpotting.’

Jackpotting has been a growing threat in recent years in different parts of the world, with the first reported case happening in 2013 in Mexico. According to Russian cybersecurity firm Group IB, more jackpotting cases occurred in 2016 in Taiwan, Thailand and several European countries. The first case in the United States reportedly took place in January this year.

In this scheme, hackers who are disguised as ATM technicians access the machines by connecting them to a laptop that has the same operating system as the machines. These hackers usually use an endoscope, a medical device inserted into the body, to inspect the ATM’s internal system. They can then manipulate the machine remotely by installing a malware known as the Ploutus D., one of the most up-to-date viruses.

Previous attacks reportedly released around 40 bills every 23 seconds, which is equivalent to thousands of dollars in a matter of minutes.

According to security expert Brian Krebs, ATMs running on Windows XP are more susceptible to jackpotting. Because of this, experts are advising ATM operators to upgrade the machines’ operating systems to Windows 7. However, the Secret Service warns that upgrading is not foolproof because some machines involved in recent cases of jackpotting are operated by Windows 7.

Meanwhile, experts have recommended placing physical ATM locks and adding a two-layer verification when accessing ATMs. Another solution mentioned was the enforcement of strict guidelines before technicians or staff can access the ATM service area.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• What do you think the growing number of jackpotting cases implies? Explain.
• Aside from limiting the access to ATM service areas, what other non-tech measures against jackpotting can be adopted? Discuss.

Discussion B

• Do you think it is time to replace or discontinue ATM technology? Why or why not?
• If ATMs were to be discontinued, what would be the best technology to replace it? Why?