ATMjackpot: A New ATM-manipulating Malware Discovered by Researchers

A research team from California recently uncovered a new malware variant – dubbed ATMjackpot – capable of forcing ATMs to dispense cash.

The “jackpotting” malware is said to resemble the ATM Ripper variant, responsible for a spate of ATM attacks in Thailand. Cybercriminals were said to have stolen about US$346,000 from 21 machines in the process.

Security experts discovered ATMjackpot to have a timestamp of March 2018, with the place of origin being Hong Kong. They also concluded that it is most likely still in its development stages when they first saw it last month.

Proximity to an ATM is required to be able to apply jackpotting malware. The money inside such machines are generally secure from attacks by force, but hackers usually go for the ATM’s motherboard as its lock is easier to destroy or pick apart.

To infect the ATM, hackers could do one of two things: use USB drives that install the ATMjackpot malware or directly connect their laptops to the machine.

Once the jackpotting malware successfully infiltrates the ATM’s motherboard, the machine could dispense at least $2,500 per minute.

As recent events have shown, even ATMs aren’t safe from the cleverest of cybercriminals.

Although some ATMs can have hundreds of thousands stored inside them, a majority of the machines have less than $10,000 in them – especially the less frequented machines that hackers tend to target.

This malware variant can be commonly seen in Europe and Asia, but there have already been instances in the United States. In February of this year, two hackers were arrested for targetting machines in the New England area.

Even though jackpotting malware might require proximity to ATMs, there have been a number of instances of remote attacks illustrating the perseverance and inventiveness of some hackers.

Cybercriminals can also work from a distance while someone else retrieves the cash for them. Although this might seem like a safer and easier method for hackers, they still need an employee’s credentials to remotely hack into an ATM.

This further stresses the importance of one’s online security – bank employee or not – as cybercriminals always come up with myriad ways of stealing from or taking advantage of vulnerable computers or devices.

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