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Hacker aims to protect world's ATMs

romania tech-savvy skimming crime secure revolving system magnetic data strip mb telecom

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#1 Hum

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Posted 18 May 2013 - 13:28

VASLUI, Romania (Reuters) - Valentin Boanta, sitting in his jail cell, proudly explains the device he has invented which, he says, could make the world's ATMs impregnable even to tech-savvy criminals like himself.

Boanta, 33, is six months into a five-year sentence for supplying gadgets an organized crime gang used to conceal ATM skimmers, which can copy data from an unsuspecting ATM user's card so a clone can be created.

He said he had started to make the devices for the sheer excitement of it and denies ever planning to use them himself, saying he only sold them to others.

Boanta says his arrest in 2009 and trial brought contrition, as he realized the impact of his actions and felt an urge to make amends. It also brought the former industrial design student a flash of technical inspiration.

"When I got caught I became happy. This liberation opened the way to working for the good side," Boanta said.

"Crime was like a drug for me. After I was caught, I was happy I escaped from this adrenaline addiction," he said. "So that the other part, in which I started to develop security solutions, started to emerge."

It was during his trial that he got down to work. The stage for Boanta's product pitch these days is the book-lined cell in the northeastern Romanian town of Vaslui he shares with five pickpockets and burglars.

"All ATMs have aging designs so they are prone to vulnerability, they are a very weak side of the banking industry," he said.

"Every ATM can be penetrated through a skimming crime. My security solution, SRS, makes an ATM unbreachable."

Boanta says his "Secure Revolving System-SRS" can be installed in any ATM. It allows the bank card to be inserted longer side first and then rotates it to prevent skimmers being able to lock on to the magnetic data strip. The system returns the card to its user with a reverse rotation.

Outwardly it is a trapezoidal metallic box around 6 inches long with the card slot in the middle.

The SRS, funded and developed by a technology firm near Bucharest called MB Telecom, is patented and won an award this year at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva. The inventor and company are not yet saying how much it will cost, but insist it will be available soon.

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#2 grik

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Posted 18 May 2013 - 14:40

I think banks profit from the card skimmers, it isnt hard to think in a better and way more secure solution for ATMs. They just dont want to, its a fact. Cards are the same for ages and the tech is way better.

Insurance cover the loses of the clients, from the banks point of view is a WIN WIN situation

#3 Brian M.

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Posted 18 May 2013 - 14:51

With chip and pin - why do ATMs need to read magnetic strips at all!?

Just make it chip and pin only, and have ATMs use the same system. As far as I know, it's not possible to clone/get useful data from a chip.

#4 abecedarian paradoxious

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Posted 18 May 2013 - 15:00

Wasn't that long ago there was this device known as an 'imprinter' which required the card be present and used carbon-copy technology to record the raised numbers on the card and had an autonomous, neural-network based security system (a.k.a. human attendant) which verified the identity of the person using the card in real-time....

With chip and pin - why do ATMs need to read magnetic strips at all!?

Just make it chip and pin only, and have ATMs use the same system. As far as I know, it's not possible to clone/get useful data from a chip.

If one can read RFID chips, one can program said chips.

Like I alluded to, perhaps the card readers should also incorporate some sensor to detect the physical presence of the raised numbers and such on the card... but those could be falsified too, though not easily since it is a physical deformation of the card.

Maybe if the card reader read the strip, scanned RFID and physical deformations, and imaged both front and back of the card before requesting PIN, and then imaged the person at the ATM using it?

#5 OP Hum

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Posted 18 May 2013 - 15:21

With chip and pin - why do ATMs need to read magnetic strips at all!?


My debit card still uses a magnetic strip.