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ATM jackpotting

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

ATM jackpotting is the exploitation of physical and software vulnerabilities in automated banking machines that result in the machines dispensing cash.

With physical access to a machine, ATM jackpotting enables the theft of the machine’s cash reserves, which are not tied to the balance of any one bank account. Thieves who are successful and remain undetected can walk away with all of the machine’s cash.

The culprits use a portable computer to physically connect to the ATM along and use malware to target the machine’s cash dispenser. In this bold public approach, an attacker will often use deception and weaker targets to limit risk, like dressing as service personnel to avoid scrutiny. Stand-alone ATMs in retail and service outlets are more likely targets, away from a bank’s tighter monitoring and security. Older machines, which may not be fully up to date, are also common targets. ATM owners are encouraged to apply all available updates.

A rash of ATM jackpotting broke out in Latin America in 2017. Following that, attacks were seen in Europe, Asia and the United States in 2018. In the United States, the attacks resulted in the theft of over a million dollars. U.S. intelligence agencies warned about the threat, noting that guides outlining the process have been discovered on the dark web.

This was last updated in March 2018

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