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posted by martyb on Thursday January 29 2015, @01:42PM   Printer-friendly
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: 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.

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  • (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.