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Jackpotting: A New Cyber Crime Appears in the US

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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, InCyberDefense

Jackpotting is a new cyber crime that is emerging at U.S. automated teller machines (ATMs). According to a January 26 press release issued by the United States Secret Service, the Secret Service has received “credible information” about this crime from its Electronic Crimes Task Force. The Secret Service has warned its law enforcement partners and financial institutions to be alert for this crime.

How Does Jackpotting Work?

Jackpotting enables a hacker to gain access to the money in an ATM. Typically, the hacker poses as an ATM technician in a pharmacy, a retail store or at a financial institution’s drive-through lane. The hacker drills a small hole in the ATM and uses an endoscope to peer inside and depress a reset button.

The hacker attaches a cable that syncs the hacker’s laptop with the computer inside the ATM.

The hacker then installs malware and/or specialized electronics to manipulate the ATM into spewing out money like a Las Vegas slot machine until the machine is empty. Legitimate users aren’t able to retrieve money from the compromised ATM.

Where Has Jackpotting Happened?

According to CNN, at least six jackpotting attacks have occurred within the past week. CNN reporter Selena Lawson noted, “They ranged in location from the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf region to New England. Thieves have stolen over $1 million…so far.” CNN also reported that jackpotting has occurred in Mexico, Europe and Asia.

What Is Being Done to Prevent This Crime?

To prevent jackpotting, ATM manufacturers, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies are being alerted to the growing problem. Financial institutions are also taking more steps to secure their ATMs and upgrade their software.

Although jackpotting cases in the U.S. appear relatively rare at the moment, this crime bears monitoring. Law enforcement agencies such as Europol have already arrested 27 people in connection with European attacks.

In addition, owners of compromised ATMs should report an attack to law enforcement as soon as possible.