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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According to Kaspersky Lab, outdated software and mistakes in network configurations can make many ATMs vulnerable to hacking – even without the help of any malware.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 According to research conducted by Kaspersky Lab experts, this is because of the widespread use of outdated and insecure software, mistakes in network configuration and a lack of physical security for critical parts of the ATM.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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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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