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Your ATM is hacked

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According to Kaspersky Lab, outdated software and mistakes in network configurations can make many ATMs vulnerable to hacking – even without the help of any malware.

Almost any ATM in the world could be illegally accessed and jackpotted with or without the help of malware. According to research conducted by Kaspersky Lab experts, this is because of the widespread use of outdated and insecure software, mistakes in network configuration and a lack of physical security for critical parts of the ATM.

For many years the biggest threat to the customers and owners of ATMs were skimmers – special devices attached to an ATM in order to steal data from bank card magstripes. But as malicious techniques have evolved, ATMs have been exposed to more danger. In 2014, Kaspersky Lab researchers discovered Tyupkin – one of the first widely known examples of malware for ATMs, and in 2015 company experts uncovered the Carbanak gang, which, among other things was capable of jackpotting ATMs through compromised banking infrastructure. Both examples of attack were possible due to the exploitation of several common weaknesses in ATM technology, and in the infrastructure that supports them. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

In an effort to map all ATM security issues, Kaspersky Lab penetration testing specialists have conducted research based on the investigation of real attacks, and on the results of ATM security assessments for several international banks.

As a result of the research, the experts have demonstrated that malware attacks against ATMs are possible due to several security issues. First is that all ATMs are PCs running on very old versions of operation systems such as Windows XP. This makes them vulnerable to infection with PC malware and attack via exploits. In the vast majority of cases, the special software that allows the ATM’s PC to interact with banking infrastructure and hardware units, processing cash and credit cards, is based on XFS standard. This a rather old and insecure technology specification, originally created in order to standardise ATM software, so that it can work on any equipment regardless of manufacturer. Should malware successfully infect an ATM, it receives almost unlimited capabilities in terms of control over that ATM: it can turn the PIN pad and card reader into a “native” skimmer or just give away all the money stored in the ATM, upon a command from its hacker.

In many cases observed by Kaspersky Lab researchers, criminals don’t have to use malware to infect the ATM or the network of the bank it’s attached to. That is possible because of the lack of physical security for the ATMs themselves – a very common issue for these devices. Very often ATMs are constructed and installed in a way that means a third-party can easily gain access to the PC inside the ATM, or to the network cable connecting the machine to the Internet.

By gaining even partial physical access to the ATM, criminals potentially can:

  • Install specially programmed microcomputer (a so called black box) inside the ATM, which will give attackers remote access to the ATM;
  • Reconnect the ATM to a rogue processing center.

A fake processing center is software that processes payment data and is identical to the bank’s software despite the fact that it doesn’t belong to the bank. Once the ATM is reconnected to a fake processing center, attackers can issue any command they want. And the ATM will obey.

The connection between ATMs and the processing center can be protected in various ways. For example, using a hardware or software VPN, SSL/TLS encryption, a firewall or MAC-authentication, implemented in xDC protocols. However, these measures are not often implemented. When they are, they are often misconfigured and even vulnerable, something that might only be discovered during an ATM security assessment. As a result, criminals don’t have to manipulate the hardware, they just exploit insecurities in the network communication between the ATM and the banking infrastructure.

How to stop ATM jackpotting:

“The results of our research show that even though vendors are now trying to develop ATMs with strong security features, many banks are still using old insecure models and this makes them unprepared for criminals actively challenging the security of these devices. This is today’s reality that causes banks and their customers huge financial losses. From our perspective this is the result of a longtime misbelief, that cybercriminals are only interested in cyberattacks against Internet banking. They are interested in these attacks, but also increasingly see the value in exploiting ATM vulnerabilities, because direct attacks against such devices significantly shortens their route to real money,” said Olga Kochetova, security expert at Kaspersky Lab’s Penetration Testing department.

Although the security issues listed above most probably affect a lot of ATMs around the world, it doesn’t mean that the situation cannot be fixed. ATM manufacturers can reduce the risk of attack on cash machines by applying the following measures:

  • Firstly, it is necessary to revise the XFS standard with an emphasis on safety, and introduce two-factor authentication between devices and legitimate software. This will help reduce the likelihood of unauthorised money withdrawals using trojans and attackers gaining direct control over ATM units.
  • Secondly, it is necessary to implement “authenticated dispensing” to exclude the possibility of attacks via fake processing centers.
  • Thirdly, it is necessary to implement cryptographic protection and integrity control over the data transmitted between all hardware units and the PCs inside ATMs.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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