We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Today's Demonstration: How to Hack an ATM—With Video!

By Allison Bond
Jul 31, 2010 12:56 AMJul 18, 2023 4:05 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Although money may not grow on trees, it can spew from an ATM--at least if you're computer security expert Barnaby Jack. He demonstrated recently at a security conference in Las Vegas how to get an ATM to spit money for minutes on end. Jack purchased the ATMs online, and says the tools required to hack them cost less than $100, according to Technology Review:

"After studying four different companies' models, he said, "every ATM I've looked at, I've found a 'game over' vulnerability that allowed me to get cash from the machine." He's even identified an Internet-based attack that requires no physical access."

Of course, Jack didn't reveal how exactly he hacked the machines... but he came pretty close. In one demonstration Black explained:

"The device's main circuit, or motherboard, is protected only by a door with a lock that is relatively easy to open (Jack was able to buy a key online). He then used a USB port on the motherboard to upload his own software, which changed the device's display, played a tune, and made the machine spit out money [for several minutes]."

Some ATMs remain very vulnerable to remote attacks as well, Jack explained, such as those designed to accept software upgrades over the Internet. For example, a hacker can circumvent an ATM authentication system by installing his or her own software, which the hacker could then exploit using someone else's information or a fake card. Jack said he hoped the demonstration would spur manufacturers to make ATMs more secure. Maybe we're just cynical, but with every new lock or security measure, won't new hackers arise to bypass them? Check out Tech Review's video about Jack's demonstration. The best bit—hacked ATM plays silly music and spits out money—starts at 1:15: Related content: Discoblog: iCop: Police to Use Facial Recognition App to Nab Criminals Discoblog: Crime-Fighting Kitties: Cat Hair Could Be the Next Forensic Tool Discoblog: True Crime, Real-Time: Live Streaming Mugshots to Your iPhoneImage: flickr / thinkpanama

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.