A City Full of Malware-Infected ATMs

ATMs certainly come through in times of financial need–they are yet another crutch in our increasingly technological world.  As such, they also serve as a big target for thieves and hackers.  It’s no secret that thieves can use ATM card skimmers to steal money right out of your bank account.  But what if every single ATM where you live had been hacked to steal all of the credit card information that it processed?

It turns out that, with the help of malware, a cybergang was able to carry out this very ruse in the mid-sized Russian city of Yakutsk (population ~210,600).  The three original members of the criminal group subcontracted a fourth to develop a custom ATM virus to infect the machines.  The Moscow-based malware developer they hired received 100,000 rubles (approximately $3200) for his work.

As in all good heist movies, each member of the cybergang had a specific role in the operation.  Aside from the malware developer, the three gang members had the following designated responsibilities: one, who had previously been employed as the head of an IT department, was in charge of gaining access to the ATMs; another was a system administrator who was responsible for actually infecting the ATMs; and the third was the designated money mule.

Unfortunately for these greedy cybercriminals, their operation was shut down before they were even able to take advantage of the credit card information they had stolen.  The Minister of Internal Affairs’ cybercrime division reports that law enforcement successfully raided the perpetrators’ apartments and confiscated copies of the malware as well as the stolen credit card information.

Still, this episode serves to show what malware is capable of—four individuals were able to hack all of the ATMs in a city roughly the size of Reno, Nevada.  So whether you’re getting cash at an ATM or managing your finances online, do whatever is in your power to secure your private information, and take malware-protection very seriously.  For starters, your PC should always have an updated and comprehensive antivirus and antispyware defense.  And even if you’re at a public place like an ATM, there are still some useful tricks that can help you stay protected.

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