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Russian security start-up kits up 30,000 state bank ATMs, terminals

Creating cash from chaos

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Cash machine crime has created a new market for start-up Russian security firm SafenSoft.

The firm has persuaded fberbank, the former Soviet-era state bank, to roll out SafenSoft's TPSecure ATM software to 30,000 cash machines and point of sales terminals across Russia. The technology is designed to preserve system integrity on unattended devices through a mixture of white-listing, behavioural analysis and privilege control techniques.

Applied properly, the technology can help protect against either the introduction of rogue software onto ATMs or fraud by maintenance crew personnel. The technology makes no attempt to combat the use of ATM skimmers, hardware devices affixed in front of card acceptance slots on cash machines.

ATM skimmers are typically used in conjunction with cameras in order to capture both plastic card details and associated PINs, data recovered or sent to fraudsters for subsequent fraud, typically involving the creation of counterfeit cards.

Other forms of fraud involving either trying to load backdoor code onto ATMs or tricking machines into dispensing $50 bills but recording only the withdrawal of $10 notes have also been developed by fraudsters. SafenSoft's technology is designed to foil these types of scams. The same technology also works on point-of-sale and kiosk devices.

Michael Kalinichenko, SafenSoft chief exec and co-founder, told El Reg that the technology protects against the misuse of removable media to extract data from ATMs as well as threats created by malware.

By taking advantage of Windows technology and moving away from proprietary networks so that ATMs are now directly connected to the internet, the banking industry has created a market for SafenSoft that didn't previously exist. "Connecting ATMs to the internet allows banks to offer more services and other opportunities, but it has also created a new market for security technology," Kalinichenko explained.

Banks – at least in Western Europe – take pains to insist their systems have built-in integrity, the reason why they often go to great lengths in fighting disputed transaction (phantom withdrawal) claims. Kalinichenko admitted that this stance might hamper SafenSoft's sales opportunities in Western Europe, at least, though he is optimistic about selling its technology to banks in emerging markets, such as Brazil. The firm is also partnering with payment terminal providers.

SafenSoft has also developed security products for corporate networks (SysWatch for enterprises) and home users (SafenSec) that compete against comparable offerings from Kaspersky Labs, Trend Micro, McAfee and others. ®

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