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ATM hack presentation ditched after legal threats

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A planned presentation about ATM security at the Hack in the Box conference in Amsterdam last week was cancelled following legal pressure from vendors.

Italian ethical hacker Raoul Chiesa intended to explain how vulnerabilities and security shortcomings that that cyber criminals were using to break into ATMs as part of his Underground Economy presentation at Hack in the Box. However, this talk was cancelled at the last minute in favour of a presentation on Side Channel Analysis on Embedded Systems by Job de Haas, Softpedia reports.

Oddly Chiesa had made the cancelled presentation at other security conferences without incident. The slides were even available online. The talk focused on security flaws that have been well understood among banking security experts, if not among the general public, for years. ENISA report, ATM Crime: Overview of the European situation and golden rules on how to avoid it, and published in September 2009, draws heavily from Chiesa's research.

Chiesa advises both ENISA and the Global Crimes Unit of the United Nations Interregional Crime & Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), as illustrated here.

It's not the first time ATM suppliers have taken action to block presentations on ATM security flaws at security conferences. Most famously, a presentation of ATM security by Barnaby Jack was pulled from last year's Black Hat, only to be re-instated for next month's show, a development at least eased if not enable when Jack left the employment of Juniper Networks to work for IOActive Labs.

It remains to be seen whether ATM vendors will once again move to block Jack's "Jackpotting" presentation this year. The software-based hack involves fooling ATM machines into spewing out more money than requested, an approach Jack himself compares to the cash machines hack carried out by John Connor in Terminator 2, AFP reports. ®

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