In the wake of recent allegations that ATM locks worldwide are vulnerable to new side-channel attacks, Sargent and Greenleaf (S&G), a manufacturer of high-quality electronic ATM locks, recently conducted vulnerability testing to provide insight and identify ways ATM owners and operators can protect their machines against side-channel attacks.

Side-channel attacks, which can exploit internal components of electronic locks, first emerged in 2015 and continue to plague electronic lock users today. In a nutshell, attacks are most effective when access, information and speed are present.

Exposed external connection points

If the hacker can quickly and easily gain access and make a connection, a breach is more likely to happen"

If the hacker can quickly and easily gain access and make a connection, a breach is more likely to happen,” states Travis Ferry, an engineer with Sargent and Greenleaf and part of the core team that conducted the company’s vulnerability testing.

Ferry immediately noted that ATM locks with exposed external connection points render the attacks more likely, with some locks vulnerable to being hacked in as little as five minutes. “Theoretically, a hacker could still get access to an ATM lock with a solid ring around it,” Ferry continues, “but, it would take time, and these attackers rely on speed to accomplish a breach.”

High-level findings to the industry

The company’s vulnerability testing also examined the type of electronic information stored within ATM locks and found that some locks retain complete static access codes in certain modes of operation without requiring touch keys for access. S&G’s report states that once hackers obtain an access code, it’s easy to open the lock and gain entry to where the ATM’s cash is stored.

S&G released high-level findings to the industry in September that could better protect ATMs

S&G released high-level findings to the industry in September that could better protect ATMs around the United States and the world. “Millions of ATMs are deployed globally,” said Devon Ratliff, Director of Engineering for Sargent and Greenleaf. “People want to feel secure about their money and cash-in-transit companies need to know their machines are safe from compromise.”

Minimising access and encryption information

Among the many suggestions from the S&G report, the top recommendations include adding tamper-resistant solid ring housings to ATM locks, minimising access and encryption information stored in the locks, and implementing multiple layers of authentication through one-time codes, touch keys and time windows.

Today’s ATM owners and operators have a lot to contend with,” Ratliff says. “Threats like side-channel attacks and jackpotting aren’t just theoretical; they result in real losses and significant downtime for these businesses.” Ratliff recommends that ATM owners and operators secure their machines with locks designed to deter side-channel attacks and consider adding accessories like ATM hood protection as well. “We can’t predict the future,” Ratliff concludes, “but, we can be pro-active and stay responsive to the threats we face today.”

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version

In case you missed it

How a leap year may effect your access control system
How a leap year may effect your access control system

Leap years occur every four years as a way to help synchronise the calendar year with the solar year, or how long it takes the Earth to orbit the sun. While this is necessary, leap years require our security systems to account for an extra day, apart from its normal schedule. As a result, leap years create problems with computing and can cause major issues to access control system functionality if a provider is not leap year compatible. There are a few things to keep in mind as we near February 29 to ensure you and your system are prepared for this uncommon occurrence. Why doesn't my access control system work on a leap year day? A leap year doesn’t occur that often, but if your system is newer than four years old, then this may be the first time you are being hit with this issue. It may be something as simple as the fact that the manufacturer of the system failed to account for leap day in their QA/testing procedures when designing the product. Regardless of the reasoning, it is important to recognise the issues that could arise so you can be prepared. An access control system malfunctioning never leads to a good outcome. What are some of the issues I could run into if my system isn’t leap year compatible? If you have your doors on a schedule, it could lead to doors being open on a Saturday or Sunday — which is the case this leap year — when they should not be open. This could naturally lead to unauthorised individuals gaining access to sensitive areas, putting company assets at risk. This could also lead to problems with credentials that were set to start or expire on a certain date, which could cause problems for new employees needing access, or could extend access privileges to contract workers whose employment terms have ended. In addition to credentialing, other scheduled events will also be off in the system. For example, some access control systems automatically lock or unlock doors on a set schedule based on business hours. With no defined schedules in place for a day that only occurs once every four years, this could lead to issues with scheduling for both authorised and unauthorised individuals. What can I do to ensure my system is ready for Feb. 29? Anything? If your manufacturer hasn’t alerted you that your system is leap-year compatible, it is best to set up your system in a test lab and simulate the leap-year date. This allows you to verify that all of your scheduling type events work correctly. If it works in a simulation, it will work on the actual day. However, beware waiting until the last moment to test your system, in case you do run into challenges that need to be addressed. Are there solutions available that account for this already? This is an important question to ask if you are evaluating a new system. While there are some systems that do not account for a leap day, many systems, like Hirsch Velocity, already do. In fact, Hirsch products have been leap-year compatible for many years now, allowing end-users to ignore the inconvenient day altogether. What if my system doesn’t? If you know for a fact that your system is not leap-year compatible, ask your provider before that date to test and ensure that your system will work properly. If you do this and encounter scheduling issues, you can opt to push off all of your scheduled events until March 1 and validate scheduled doors being opened on February 29 to plan accordingly. While leap day is inconvenient, it is addressable. It is just important to do so early to catch any issues before they arise. Failure to acknowledge the challenges associated with leap years will inevitably lead to difficulties when the day comes.

Embracing digital transformation in the security industry
Embracing digital transformation in the security industry

Many industries are, to a greater or lesser extent, in the throes of digital transformation. As with any change programme, digital transformation efforts often under-perform against expectations. Yet, the number of digital transformation programmes continue to increase, as commercial pressures intensify. As security professionals we need to embrace our role in digital transformation, as security is everybody’s business. For all those people weary of hearing about digital transformation and believe it’s a business fad, consider your own behaviours. If you use a smartphone to search, find, order, buy, message, watch, learn, play, bank, pay, enter, exit, navigate, communicate and more then you are part of the reason that digital transformation is a commercial necessity. The way we live our lives has changed significantly over the past twenty years and this needs to be reflected into how we rethink the way we do business. Digital transformation is about more than technology, it allows people to solve their traditional problems in new and better ways than before. Better can mean faster, at lower cost, using fewer resources, easier to maintain, more compliant and/or easier to report insights. IoT, criminal activity and security  The number of internet connected devices worldwide is increasing at an exponential rate; by the end of 2025 there are expected to be 75.44 billion. Internet of Things (IoT) means digital transformation converges physical and digital for security professionals. Criminals use smarter digital tools such as malware, drones, key cloners, signal readers and more, which impact both physical and cybersecurity. To counter this, digital transformation provides security professionals with access As security professionals we need to embrace our role in digital transformation, as security is everybody’s businessto valuable actionable insights to identify and deter threats to people and assets. All transformation starts with an idea generated by people and ends with people experiencing the output. Therefore, digital transformation starts and ends with people. To ensure a solid foundation to any digital transformation agenda, people need to have a clear purpose to engage. This is where security leaders can inspire their colleagues with a laudable purpose of embracing disruption at the same time as focusing on safeguarding people and assets. Non-security colleagues should understand that security risks are advancing at a faster pace than enterprises can adapt. As a security leader, you are advocating a movement where your colleagues adopt relevant enterprise security risk management practices in their daily thinking and working. The message is clear that digital transformation presents abundant opportunities and these need to be evaluated alongside the proliferating security threats that can become a business continuity failure. Security professionals and digital influence  The number of internet connected devices worldwide is increasing at an exponential rate; by the end of 2025 there are expected to be 75.44 billionSecurity professionals can influence digital transformation success by translating an enterprise’s strategy into secure operational reality. The security narrative should emphasise the people side of digital transformation and how technology can act as an enabler of a safe and secure experience, both for employees and customers. Operationally, digital transformation is about agility, adaptability and navigating uncertainty. Old ways of thinking and working will be blockers to transformation, so security leaders ought to identify the rapid enablers of a ‘secure’ digital transformation. Better people, processes and overall technology People generally don’t want more in their lives, they want better. Better people. Better data. Better technology. Better processes. Digital transformation creates significant ‘better’ benefits for security: For example, connected (IoT) sensors, video analytics at the edge and machine learning identify threats faster; workflow technologies and automation detect, investigate and remediate routine responses; cloud provides many benefits such as agility, scale and mobility; and, smartphones/digital devices provide real-time communication and collaboration. Tackling all the ‘better’ needs within a security approach is necessary – focusing on the prioritised commercial needs first. Think about how to drive radical simplification into digital transformation agendas to ensure complexity doesn’t create too many unmanageable risks. Designing enterprise security risk management into the business operating model will facilitate colleagues to be empowered for safe and secure change. Communicating security successes and breaches with commercial impact insights in a timely and concise manner across the enterprise will prove the value of active security engagement throughout digital transformation programmes. Transforming the world Digital technology is transforming the world around us, in a way that impacts every area of security. Security professionals are now businesspeople and technologists, in addition to their traditional security remits. Embracing this impacts security recruitment, training and employee engagement, within the security team and with non-security colleagues. Without a doubt, security professionals are integral to digital transformation programmes.

ISC West modifying Venetian ballroom layout in absence of Chinese companies
ISC West modifying Venetian ballroom layout in absence of Chinese companies

ISC West is being affected only minimally by the COVID-19 coronavirus, which is having an impact on international business travel, specifically to and from China. One consequence of coronavirus travel restrictions is a decision by Reed Exhibitions International not to proceed with a dedicated pavilion for Chinese companies at ISC West, March 17-20. In the main hall, however, some Chinese companies will remain in the show and staff their exhibit booths with U.S. office personnel and resources. Importantly, the ISC West event is moving forward as planned. Several trade show organisers globally have cancelled events because of fears of spreading the disease. For example, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was cancelled at the end of February. “Our clear focus is on the health and safety for our entire ISC community, and empathy and compassion for our Chinese customers relative to personal health and safety, and the very challenging business predicament for these companies,” says Will Wise, Group Vice President, Security & Gaming Portfolio, Reed Exhibitions. Minimal Impact Our clear focus is on the health and safety for our entire ISC community, and empathy and compassion for our Chinese customersThe ISC West team and Reed Exhibitions International colleagues in China have been working diligently to assess the status of all ISC West exhibitors from China, given the travel restriction, says Wise. Among show attendees, Chinese travel restrictions will have a negligible impact. In past years, only a tiny fraction of attendees traveled to Las Vegas from China for the show. Immediate action by the U.S. government as soon as the world became aware of the COVID-19 coronavirus has enabled a controlled business and health and safety dynamic that will allow the show to proceed as planned. The U.S. took quick action to put major travel restrictions in place, including no incoming flights/travel from China. “The status is ever-evolving and we’ll be keeping the expo floor plan updated,” says Wise. The China pavilion In previous years, the China pavilion had hosted 50 or more companies as part of what was formerly known as “Global Expo,” located in the Venetian Ballroom adjacent to the Sands Convention Center.  In 2019, the slate of companies in the Venetian Ballroom expanded to include some domestic exhibitors as well as the international companies. Importantly, the ISC West event is moving forward as plannedThis year, Venetian Ballroom exhibits will continue without the participation of Chinese companies. There will be international exhibitors from countries outside China as well as some domestic companies, including the Emerging Technology Zone, where new startups will highlight their latest innovations. The Security Industry Association (SIA) New Product Showcase will also be featured in the Venetian Ballroom, as well as a VIP international lounge. Additionally, a new pavilion highlighting Loss Prevention and Supply Chain companies will be featured, and there will be an educational theatre offering free sessions on topics such as drones and robotics.  Reed Exhibitions strongly urges exhibitors and visitors to refer to the guidelines and protocols as suggested by the World Health Organization and local/national public health authorities to contain and mitigate against any further spread of the virus. Suggested precautions include frequent hand washing (including alcohol-based hand rubs) and maintaining a three-foot distance between oneself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.