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An international group of law enforcement and financial industry associations hopes to prevent a new type of bank robbery before it gets off the ground: cyber attacks against automated teller machines.

This fall the Global ATM Security Alliance (GASA) published what it says are the first international cyber security guidelines specifically tailored to cash machines. Experts see new dangers as legacy ATMs running OS/2 give way to modern terminals built on Microsoft Windows.

"The recommendations presented in this manual are essentially designed to provide a common sense approach to ... the rapidly changing threat model that the introduction to the ATM channel of the Windows XP and other common use operating systems, as well as the TCP/IP network protocol suite, has created," said the manual's author, Ian Simpson, in a statement.

The move comes one year after the Nachi worm compromised Windows-based automated teller machines at two financial institutions, in the only acknowledged case of malicious code penetrating ATMs. The cash machines, made by Diebold, were built on Windows XP Embedded, which suffered from the RPC DCOM security hole Nachi exploited.

In response to the incident, Diebold began shipping new Windows-based ATMs preinstalled with host-based firewall software, and offered to add the program for existing customers.

Though ATMs typically sit on private networks or VPNs, supposedly-isolated networks often have undocumented connections to the Internet, or can fall to a piece of malicious code inadvertently carried beyond the firewall on a laptop computer. Last year's Slammer worm indirectly shut down some 13,000 Bank of America ATMs by infecting database servers on the same network, and spewing so much traffic that the cash machines couldn't processes customer transactions.

The goal of the ATM cyber security best practices document, which has not been made public, and a related white paper developed by GASA, is "to be proactive in fighting what might be the next wave of ATM crime - namely cyber attacks," said Mike Lee, founding coordinator of the group, in a statement.

GASA's members include fraud prevention agencies, financial industry associations, the US Secret Service, Visa and MasterCard, and some ATM networks and manufacturers, including Diebold and NCR.

Copyright © 2004, SecurityFocus logo

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