Report: ATM Skimmer Attacks On The Rise

There’s nothing particularly “new” about the use of ATM skimmers, but a recent report from the European ATM Security Team (EAST) has reminded us all of the dangers. What evildoers do is construct a skimmer out of common materials, including a magnetic reader and somewhere to store the resulting data. Back in the day you’d use a tape recorder, but nowadays you can affix a cheap portable audio player and you’re good to go. I’m almost certain I’ve read articles to this effect in issues of 2600 over the years.

What would happen is that you swipe your ATM card in a poisoned machine (I just made that term up, “poisoned machine”), the gadget reads the data, and BAM! Evildoers can now clone your ATM card.

What’s worrying is that, as the technology in the skimmers improve, it’s both easier to deploy (for the evildoers) and harder to recognize (for victims). In fact, in 11 of 16 countries EAST has found that there’s been an increase in the number of ATM skimmer attacks.

It doesn’t help that we’ve clung onto the magnetic stripe, as a technology, like grim death. Maybe we could use something like the tokens that Blizzard uses to authenticate World of Warcraft players? Every time you access an ATM you have to type in your generated passcode? (But then people would complain about having to carry around a token, but then you suggest it could be replicated on your phone as an App, but then they complain they don’t have an iPhone/Android, then you say forget it let’s go back to trading sea shells.)

What to do about this?

Panic, I guess, or maybe divorce yourself from society. Or maybe just not use ATMs off the beaten path?