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posted by martyb on Thursday January 29 2015, @01:42PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the or-how-to-expedite-large-cash-withdrawals dept.

Nick Summers has an interesting article at Bloomberg about the epidemic of 90 ATM bombings that has hit Britain since 2013. ATM machines are vulnerable because the strongbox inside an ATM has two essential holes: a small slot in front that spits out bills to customers and a big door in back through which employees load reams of cash in large cassettes. "Criminals have learned to see this simple enclosure as a physics problem," writes Summers. "Gas is pumped in, and when it’s detonated, the weakest part—the large hinged door—is forced open. After an ATM blast, thieves force their way into the bank itself, where the now gaping rear of the cash machine is either exposed in the lobby or inside a trivially secured room. Set off with skill, the shock wave leaves the money neatly stacked, sometimes with a whiff of the distinctive acetylene odor of garlic." The rise in gas attacks has created a market opportunity for the companies that construct ATM components. Several manufacturers now make various anti-gas-attack modules: Some absorb shock waves, some detect gas and render it harmless, and some emit sound, fog, or dye to discourage thieves in the act.

As far as anyone knows, there has never been a gas attack on an American ATM. The leading theory points to the country’s primitive ATM cards. Along with Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, and not many other countries, the U.S. doesn’t require its plastic to contain an encryption chip, so stealing cards remains an effective, non-violent way to get at the cash in an ATM. Encryption chip requirements are coming to the U.S. later this year, though. And given the gas raid’s many advantages, it may be only a matter of time until the back of an American ATM comes rocketing off.

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  • (Score: 2) by WizardFusion on Thursday January 29 2015, @01:56PM

    by WizardFusion (498) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 29 2015, @01:56PM (#139162) Journal

    They are calling 90 attacks and "epidemic".? There are over 69,000 ATMs in the UK

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Thexalon on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:19PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:19PM (#139191)

      Of course it is: How else are you going to sell 69,000 fancy new ATMs that can prevent this kind of heist?

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Joe Desertrat on Thursday January 29 2015, @06:35PM

      by Joe Desertrat (2454) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 29 2015, @06:35PM (#139247)

      Here in the US a much more common tactic used by thieves is the smash and grab. Rather than messing with the usually more difficult security of a bank, thieves will steal a pickup truck or other large cargo capable vehicle, crash it into a shop that has an ATM, toss the ATM into the truck and take off. A couple blocks away they meet another vehicle, transfer the stolen ATM to that, and take off, leaving the stolen vehicle used in the crime behind. Most of these small ATM's are secured at most by a couple bolts to the floor which can be ripped up. The whole operation takes little longer than a pit stop at a race.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @10:40PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @10:40PM (#139316)

        Some ATM's may have lojack

    • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Thursday January 29 2015, @07:58PM

      by davester666 (155) on Thursday January 29 2015, @07:58PM (#139269)

      two whack jobs kill 3 people and we have to throw away privacy and freedom of speech in order to stop the rampant terrorism happening here: Harper in Canada.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by q.kontinuum on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:10PM

    by q.kontinuum (532) on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:10PM (#139164) Journal

    ... so the gas would be burning right away. Sounds like the simplest solution to me.
    (Of course it does not have to be literally a flame. Electricity is there anyways, so a spark plug firing at 1Hz should do the trick as well.)

    --
    Registered IRC nick on chat.soylentnews.org: qkontinuum
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by draconx on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:13PM

      by draconx (4649) on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:13PM (#139188)

      That's exactly what the "anti-gas-attack module" linked in the summary does:

      Working on a timed two phased system, the AGS remains constantly operational, removing the need for sensor activation and simply ignites gas at the point of entry. This prevents sufficient volume of gas to be added to cause an explosion and allows the AGS system to remain operational after the attempted attack.

      • (Score: 2) by nitehawk214 on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:47PM

        by nitehawk214 (1304) on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:47PM (#139198)

        I wonder what the failure rate of these things are? I wonder if it is higher than the 90/69000 or .1% of ATMs that were attacked.

        Oh damn, the ATM dispensed burned money again.

        --
        "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
        • (Score: 2) by q.kontinuum on Thursday January 29 2015, @04:17PM

          by q.kontinuum (532) on Thursday January 29 2015, @04:17PM (#139207) Journal

          Unlikely. If the idea is to generate a small electric spark every second, there should be no flammable material near the generator. A failure would therefore not be a sudden flame but only a lack of sparks, which would go unnoticed unless this ATM is actually targeted by a gas attack.

          --
          Registered IRC nick on chat.soylentnews.org: qkontinuum
      • (Score: 3, Funny) by DeathMonkey on Thursday January 29 2015, @06:28PM

        by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday January 29 2015, @06:28PM (#139244) Journal

        That's exactly what the "anti-gas-attack module" linked in the summary does
         
        It's a crazy world when ATMs start coming equipped with pilot lights!

        • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Thursday January 29 2015, @06:29PM

          by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday January 29 2015, @06:29PM (#139245) Journal

          They'll probably get a patent on the damn things too.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:14PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:14PM (#139165)

    > the now gaping rear of the cash machine

    goatse anyone?

    • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Thursday January 29 2015, @04:21PM

      by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Thursday January 29 2015, @04:21PM (#139211)

      No. Just NO.

      --
      "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by LoRdTAW on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:38PM

    by LoRdTAW (3755) on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:38PM (#139176) Journal

    A more effective way to deter the thieves is to harden the banks ATM rooms so one cant simply walk in and grab the dough after a blast. Hardening the machines to explosions seems like it would make the thieves pump in more gas or use more powerful explosives to make a bigger boom. That sounds like an arms race. As the article mentioned, gas detectors and ink bombs would be a better alternative. Another idea is a very secure cash door with a smooth front which extends well past the cash slot when closed so there is no gap in which to pry at. The machine should have dye pack bombs inside the cash cartridges that explode when the door is jammed, flammable gas is detected or a sudden hard jolt is detected. So what if some cheap pieces of paper are damaged by ink. Might even be useful for deterring ATM raids after earthquakes. By default the money is damaged.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:45PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:45PM (#139178)

      Well, if you make a bigger bomb, that also increases the risk that you'll burn the money while detonating it or perhaps compromise the structural integrity of the bank building too much.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:54PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:54PM (#139184)

        > perhaps compromise the structural integrity of the bank building too much.

        That's not really something the thieves care about.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @11:41PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @11:41PM (#139326)

          Having the building fall on their heads while looting it would be something they'd care about for sure.

    • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:46PM

      by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:46PM (#139180) Journal

      Maybe design the machine to redirect the blast towards the perpetrators. Then roll all the banknotes up into pointy-tipped cones, so that the thieves get a faceful of high-velocity money-darts.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @02:52PM (#139183)

      > A more effective way to deter the thieves is to harden the banks ATM rooms so one cant simply walk in and grab the dough after a blast.

      That won't work. There are case of people bombing ATMs to get at the cash from the front. Since the cost to explode the ATM is so low, it doesn't matter if only a small fraction of the cash survives.

      Here's an example [abc.net.au]
      And the humorous video [youtu.be] of the bomber in action.

      • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Thursday January 29 2015, @09:03PM

        by LoRdTAW (3755) on Thursday January 29 2015, @09:03PM (#139298) Journal

        The article appears to speak of both types of attacks. Blowing out the rear and entering the service room behind the machines is another method.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @05:35PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @05:35PM (#139230)

      A more effective way to deter the thieves is to harden the banks ATM rooms so one cant simply walk in and grab the dough after a blast. Hardening the machines to explosions seems like it would make the thieves pump in more gas or use more powerful explosives to make a bigger boom. That sounds like an arms race.

      Why not just ventilate the room? Seriously. This gas attack is predicated on the idea of building up a sufficient quantity of gas in the room so as to ignite an explosion. If the room is well-ventilated that would pretty well thwart such a gas attack. Or, so it would seem to me.

      • (Score: 2) by TGV on Thursday January 29 2015, @07:08PM

        by TGV (2838) on Thursday January 29 2015, @07:08PM (#139257)

        My idea too. A pressure vent, located on the inside of the building, that opens at a pressure a bit above normal atmospheric pressure, e.g. 150kPa. Should be an easy operation.

      • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Thursday January 29 2015, @09:01PM

        by LoRdTAW (3755) on Thursday January 29 2015, @09:01PM (#139297) Journal

        I believe the blast is to blow the back of the ATM itself open, not the room it is located in. Perhaps the blast accomplishes both.

        Something along the lines of a burst disc placed in the roof would pop and vent the pressure wave.

    • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Friday January 30 2015, @08:19AM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Friday January 30 2015, @08:19AM (#139411)

      You don't have to make the ATM impossible to rob, just more trouble than it's worth.

      Like the joke about the two guys running from the bear. "I don't have to outrun the bear; I just have to outrun you." They'll find some other ATM that isn't as hardened.

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Snotnose on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:39PM

    by Snotnose (1623) on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:39PM (#139194)

    In the 80s I had a girl friend who was VP for Wells Fargo. One weekend she got a page saying an ATM was out of money. She called a co-worker (another VP, protocol), we picked him up in her car, drove to a non-descript building, they went in, came out with a little cardboard box, asked me to hang on to it. Asked what was in it, they said $20k in $20 bills. We went to the ATM, they opened up the back of it, stuffed the cash in, closed up, dropped off the co-worker, and went back to our day. From page to done it was maybe 30 minutes, she said it happened a couple times a month.

    She was also the one that told me most ATMs had cameras in them.

    --
    Theiyr're - Take that grammar police.
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by MrGuy on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:44PM

    by MrGuy (1007) on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:44PM (#139197)

    A physics problem requires a physics solution.

    An explosion is a pressure wave. The interior of the safe resists the pressure wave. In an airtight safe, this will result in pressure all around the safe until some piece of the safe (likely the weakest piece) fails, providing an escape route for all that built up pressure.

    The first question I'd have is why not design a safe that can't contain pressure. I'm sure holes in the front of the safe provide for potential mischief (e.g. pouring in acids to destroy the cash), but why not drill a bunch of vent holes in the back door of the safe (which is at least somewhat protected)? The cash is still secure inside the ATM, but the force of an explosion will largely spend itself shooting out the holes, rather than breaking the lock. And, heck, if you're going as far as vent holes, why not install a small fan (which can vent explosive gasses before they can build up enough to explode properly)?

    If you really really don't want holes in your safe, then your answer isn't in strength but in weakness. You can't keep a largely airtight safe from failing in an explosion, but you CAN choose where it fails. And that failure point doesn't have to be the safe door.

    Consider the following setup. The ATM has a back door with a strong bolt lock. The base of the ATM has an insert panel which is permanent, but is held in place with relatively thin rods that are weak compared to the lock on the back of the ATM. Then, mount your ATM's on a hollow pillar of concrete (i.e. a concrete base with strong outer walls but that has a large hollow in the middle). As with the above, you potentially vent the concrete base (probably ONLY with holes on the INSIDE of the bank). You position the "blow out panel" of the ATM over the hollow in the concrete pillar. Now, if someone tries to blow the ATM, the blow-out panel in the bottom is what fails, and the cash drops into the relative safety of a thick concrete pillar. The thief can't get at the cash, because the ATM is still locked, and the pillar does not have a door (and, since the pillar IS vented, it can't be blown by simply repeating the same technique). Your ATM failed, but failed in a way you were prepared for, and that didn't expose the cash.

    • (Score: 2) by nitehawk214 on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:54PM

      by nitehawk214 (1304) on Thursday January 29 2015, @03:54PM (#139199)

      What would be the point of destroying the cash without stealing any of it? It costs the bank exactly nothing, as the money is simply replaced by the mint. One might as well toss a brick through the window of the bank, that would hurt them just as much.

      --
      "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
    • (Score: 2) by TK on Thursday January 29 2015, @07:13PM

      by TK (2760) on Thursday January 29 2015, @07:13PM (#139259)

      ATMs are designed with as few access points as possible to prevent conventional methods of breaking in (ie, a crowbar). Even a fan with a grill of steel plate over it is considerably more fragile than that same steel plate, without grill slots, and with a concrete backing. As for a vent shaft under the machine, I would think that the ATMs most vulnerable to this attack are the ones in the sides of buildings. While you certainly can install a concrete tube underneath these, the expense would be very high for a >0.1% risk (so far, but natgas is pretty cheap right now).

      For the record, I think q.kontinuum's proposed solution [soylentnews.org] is the best presented so far. Relatively cheap operating cost, suppodly a quick and cheap modification. Bonus points if you turn the spark off while cash is being dispensed.

      Second best is the ink-packs mentioned by LoRdTAW.

      --
      The fleas have smaller fleas, upon their backs to bite them, and those fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @08:38PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @08:38PM (#139285)

        ATMs are designed with as few access points as possible to prevent conventional methods of breaking in (ie, a crowbar). Even a fan with a grill of steel plate over it is considerably more fragile than that same steel plate, without grill slots, and with a concrete backing.

        I disagree. Ventilation is still the best option. Hint: the ventilation duct does not need to be so big as to allow a man to fit through.

        • (Score: 2) by TK on Thursday January 29 2015, @10:45PM

          by TK (2760) on Thursday January 29 2015, @10:45PM (#139318)

          I'm not suggesting fitting a whole thief in there, just enough space to fit the sharp end of a pry-bar. With a big enough lever, I could presumably wrench the case open without making too much noise (dremels need not apply).

          I suppose a simpler way to defeat a ventilation duct would be duct tape and a small piece of cardboard.

          Next time I'm at an ATM, I'll have to take a gander at the available access points and see if I could jam something in there to give me some leverage. I just have to try to not look suspicious while doing so.

          --
          The fleas have smaller fleas, upon their backs to bite them, and those fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30 2015, @12:49AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30 2015, @12:49AM (#139344)

            I'm not suggesting fitting a whole thief in there, just enough space to fit the sharp end of a pry-bar.

            Yuh-huh. And what are you going to be prying on? When that ventilation duct is in a wall of reinforced concrete, your crowbar is not going to be of much use.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @08:45PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @08:45PM (#139289)

      A physics problem requires a physics solution.

      [elaborate "physics solution" to mundane problem elided]

      You, sir, are living proof that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @04:20PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29 2015, @04:20PM (#139210)

    Blowing buildings with vacuum (thermobaric) bombs? Well, in the US anybody, not just the police, have a right to use "deadly force" when arson is attempted. And there are lots of folks looking for target practice.