Feeds

Better ATM skimming through thermal imaging

Technique automates PIN theft

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Security researchers have found that thermal cameras can be combined with computer algorithms to automate the process of stealing payment card data processed by automatic teller machines.

At the Usenix Security Symposium in San Francisco last week, the researchers said the technique has advantages over more common ATM skimming methods that use traditional cameras to capture the PINs people enter during transactions. That's because customers often obscure a camera's view with their bodies, either inadvertently or on purpose. What's more, it can take a considerable amount of time for crooks to view the captured footage and log the code entered during each session.

Thermal imaging can vastly improve the process by recovering the code for some time after each PIN is entered. Their output can also be processed by an algorithm that automates the process of translating it into the secret code.

The findings expand on 2005 research from Michal Zalewski, who is now a member of Google's security team. The Usenix presenters tested the technique laid out by Zalewski on 21 subjects who used 27 randomly selected PINs and found the rate of success varied depending on variables including the types of keypads and the subjects' body temperature.

“In summary, while we document that post-hoc thermal imaging attacks are feasible and automatable, we also find that the window of vulnerability is far more modest than some feared and that there are simple counter-measures (i.e., deploying keypads with high thermal conductivity) that can shrink this vulnerability further still,” the researchers wrote.

A PDF of their paper, which is titled Heat of the Moment: Characterizing the Efficacy of Thermal Camera-Based Attacks, is here. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.