Crooks used Infrared insert skimmers in a recent wave of ATM attacks

Pierluigi Paganini July 16, 2017

The number of cyber attacks against ATM involving so-called ‘insert skimmers’ is increasing. Bran Krebs wrote about recent attacks using infrared devices.

The number of cyber attacks against ATM involving so-called ‘insert skimmers’ is increasing. Insert Skimmers are wafer-thin fraud devices designed to fit invisibly inside the ATM card slot.

Insert Skimmers are able to capture card data and store it on an embedded flash memory.

The popular cyber security expert Brian Krebs reported in some cases the use of insert skimmers that are able to transmit stolen card data wirelessly via infrared.

The infrared is a short-range communication technology, every day we use it when we change TV program with a television remote control.

Krebs cited a case that has happened a few weeks ago in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area where at least four banks were victims of ATM attacks involving insert skimmers.

The KFOR news channel quoted a local police detective saying “the skimmer contains an antenna which transmits your card information to a tiny camera hidden somewhere outside the ATM.”

insert skimmers

An insert skimmer retrieved from a compromised cash machine in Oklahoma City. Image:

Krebs confirmed that financial industry sources tell him that preliminary analysis of the insert skimmers used in the ATM attacks confirms they were equipped with technology to transmit stolen card data wirelessly to the hidden camera using infrared.

The insert skimmers used to compromise cash machines in Oklahoma City were equipped with the hidden that was used to record time-stamped videos of ATM users entering their PINs and to receive card data recorded and transmitted by the insert skimmer.

This design helps crooks in reducing maintenance activities for the skimmers, for example when they need to substitute the internal battery, they could leave the device in the ATM slot and swap out the hidden camera.

The skimmers are optimized to preserve battery, according to Krebs the insert skimmer also uses an embedded battery that is turned on only when someone inserts a card into the ATM slot.

The spy cameras are deployed to remain hidden, crooks use tiny pinholes cut into false fascias that they install above or beside the PIN pad.

“Thieves involved in skimming attacks have hidden spy cameras in some pretty ingenious places, such as a brochure rack to the side of the cash machine or a safety mirror affixed above the cash machine (some ATMs legitimately place these mirrors so that customers will be alerted if someone is standing behind them at the machine).” wrote Krebs.

“More often than not, however, hidden cameras are placed behind tiny pinholes cut into false fascias that thieves install directly above or beside the PIN pad. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of a hidden camera used in the recent Oklahoma City insert skimming attacks.”

Let me suggest covering the pin pad with your hand when you enter it, in this case, the hidden camera will not be able to record it. Krebs also wars of non-video methods to obtain the PIN (such as PIN pad overlays), but he explains that these devices are rare and more expensive for fraudsters.

If you are searching more information about Skimmers devices check out Brian Krebs’s series All About Skimmers.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – insert skimmers, cybercrime)

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