ATMs are, surprisingly enough, not the most secure pieces of technology out there, though there are efforts to improve security by taking advantage of mobile devices. Granted, this won’t be enough to protect against the considerable vulnerabilities in ATMs. In order to maximize security and minimize the amount of damage done by vulnerabilities, the user needs to understand how to protect themselves while using ATMs.
What’s Being Done?
Wells Fargo has created an initiative that lets members access their accounts through an ATM, even without their ATM cards, through a mobile device. The application in question allows the account holder to receive a temporary pass code that they can use at a Wells Fargo ATM alongside their PIN.
At the time of this writing, while Wells Fargo is certainly the one leading the pack in terms of app-based ATM access, there are others who are following suit. These organizations include Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup, all of which have already started to implement similar measures for their ATMs.
However, that’s just the beginning. Wells Fargo’s ATMs also feature near-field communication (NFC), which lets their users access their funds without the need of their card. Users can also use their mobile device to scan their fingerprint, alongside entering their PIN. Only 40 percent of the ATMs are currently equipped with this feature, but it seems to be a great way to help card users in a pinch.
Will These Advancements Work?
These advancements might be a great way to help users stay more secure, but criminals will still find ways around these functions. This is apparent, as six times as many ATMs have been compromised since 2014.
Scammers are also taking advantage of cameras and card skimming technologies to steal information when a bank member accesses an ATM. Some of the more advanced card skimmers can be inserted directly into the ATM’s card scanning mechanism, giving thieves direct access to individual’s account information and security credentials. Even schemes like pinhole cameras can let hackers get a great view of a user’s PIN or card number.
To make matters worse, hackers might try to sabotage machines that don’t have their devices installed on them. This forces bank members to use the devices that have been tampered with, putting themselves at risk. Therefore, if you see a group of ATMs and only one of them works, you may want to avoid using it.
Even those who have chip-based cards aren’t safe from hackers, as scammers can use a method called “shimming” to steal the information located on the chip. While this is somewhat rare to encounter, chances are that hackers will eventually be able to streamline the process and it will become more popular over time--especially considering how common chip cards are now. That’s not even mentioning that the chip cards still have magnetic strips, which means that they might decide to just swipe the card.
A Couple of Problems
Keep in mind that ATMs are still rather vulnerable to scammers for a number of reasons. For one, these security features often are only added to the machine’s features rather than replacing old or ailing ones. For example, the Wells Fargo ATMs that allow for temporary PINs will still allow for access with less secure methods. Considering how there are only about 20 million Wells Fargo app users out of their 70 million members, there’s a majority that are still using less-secure features for their banking purposes.
Even further, this assumes that those 20 million app users will bother to take advantage of them in the first place. Sometimes a habit can be hard to break, especially when you’ve been using the same technology for so many years. Regrettably, some users will still just keep using their cards the same way, even though security is a valid reason to change it up.
What Can You Do?
Regardless of how you use ATMs, you’ll need to keep security at the top of your mind. To this end, it’s your responsibility to take advantage of whatever means necessary to protect your finances. The least you can do is shield your PIN with your other hand as you plug it into the ATM.
What are your thoughts on these ATM security practices? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog.