Avoiding ATM skimming in a fast changing environment

By : Owen Wild

December 28, 2015 01:00 PM

Skimming continues to be the major security threat in the ATM channel. Figures from ATM Industry Association show attacks are rising - up 12 percent in 2013 to account for 92 percent of all fraud at the ATM. In the US, the growth is even more dramatic. FICO reports that skimming attacks in the US have reached a 20 year high and have increased over 150% at bank locations and over 300% at non-bank locations.


Not only is the frequency of attack growing but the criminals are constantly reinventing how they carry out an attack.


Skimming devices are becoming smaller and harder to detect. They are also finding ways to steal PIN details that significantly increase the value of the stolen data. For criminals, fraud is a business and the more potential profit the more reason to target a particular channel.


Increasing forms of skimming variants


Traditionally, skimmers were built into fake bezels that were placed on top of the legitimate card reader bezels of the ATMs. In some cases, users of ATMs can identify these fake bezels by shaking them to see if they are lose or ill fitting.


Unfortunately, newer forms of skimming may be impossible for the consumer to detect. The skimmers are getting smaller and are being placed inside the card reader. Newer forms of skimming are now attempting to attach devices directly to the internal card readers of ATM. This is done either by drilling holes in the ATM facias, or gaining access to the top box of the ATM.


There are also growing levels of sophistication in the type of technology and the ways criminals are attempting to capture the card data.


Despite these increasing threats, the good news is that there are solutions available to ATM operators to protect themselves from these forms of attacks. Deploying anti-skimming solutions, along with other physical protection tools in the ATM environment can significantly reduce the risk of card skimming.


The real issue cannot be solved, until as an industry, we eliminate the use of the magnetic stripe on the back of cards. The use of contactless EMV transaction is now occurring in some markets and serves as a strong first step in making this change.


Consumers should ask their banks about the form of card skimming defenses that are deployed at the bank’s ATMs. Consumers should also take the time to take a look at the card bezel to see if something doesn’t look or feel right.   When in doubt, try a different ATM. Finally, as always, consumers need to make sure they protect the entry of their PIN. Covering the pin pad with your hand as you enter the PIN is also very effective in preventing your card PIN from being captured by a camera.

Owen Wild

Security Marketing Director

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Owen Wild is responsible for marketing strategies for the NCR Security Solutions within NCR’s Financial Solution Portfolio. Over the past 15 years, Owen has held several sales and marketing positions with leading travel and tech cos.