Infrared cameras can be used to steal PINs from ATMs

infrared cameras can be used to steal pins from atms atm scam

Cameras, fake card readers, you name it… the list of schemes used to steal customer PINs at ATM machines is endless. Now it’s time to add another possible technique. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego recently presented the results of a study in which they found infrared cameras could be used to steal a PIN even after the customer left the ATM.

Led by Keaton Mowery, a doctoral student in computer science, the team found that they could measure the residual heat of ATM users’ fingers on the keypad. Using custom software that automated the camera’s heat-seeking abilities, they had 21 volunteers try out 27 random four-digit PINs on both plastic and brushed metal keypads.

The plastic pads were more insecure. If used immediately after the user entered his or her PIN, the team’s cameras accurately found the four digits in the PIN 80 percent of the time. After a minute, the success rate was still 50 percent.

With metal’s higher thermal conductivity, heat dissipated from those keypads almost instantly, making stealing numbers nearly impossible.

An additional issue is the fact that, while the team was able to find the digits users pressed, it wasn’t feasible to regularly discover their order. Still, that’s only 24 possible combinations to test out versus the 10,000 a thief would have to work through if he or she started from scratch. Also, with the concept already proven, it’s possible that further refinements could measure the heat difference between the button pressed first and those following, although that’s yet to be shown.

So should you just completely give up ATMs, force your employer to pay you in cash and walk around with stacks of twenties in your pockets? Well, you can if you want, but it’s probably not necessary. One, as a rule it’s not a good idea to use an ATM with camera guys lurking around anyway, and this is no exception. Two, using a metal keypad pretty much eliminates the possibility of this scam working unless a hidden camera was filming the whole time. In that case, it’s already prudent practice to cover the keypad while you enter your PIN. Common sense and a preference for metal keypads should protect the average Joe from this particular scheme, but you’re more than welcome to ice your fingertips beforehand if it makes you feel safer. 

Photo credit: Keaton Mowery, via PhysOrg

Smart Home

The Instant Pot Lux is a gateway drug into the pleasures of pressure cooking

The 3-quart Instant Pot Lux is one of the most affordable Instant Pots you can buy. Is it still a solid pressure cooker? Here are our thoughts on the Instant Pot Lux, a great IP baseline model.

Rekindled yet again, Nokia’s next-gen phones offer more than just nostalgia

HMD Global, a startup that designs and builds Nokia Android smartphones, wants to put the Nokia brand name back “where it belongs.” It helps that it’s made up of ex-Nokia employees. We go behind the scenes to see how HMD formed.
Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers for 2019

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.
Emerging Tech

Forget fireworks. Japan will soon have artificial meteor showers on tap

Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences is preparing to launch its first artificial meteor shower over Japan, serving as a showcase of its prowess in the space entertainment sector.

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
Emerging Tech

Glowing space billboards could show ads in the night sky

Look up at the night sky in 2020 and you might see an ad for McDonald's floating among the stars. A Russian startup is working on a project that uses a constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit to create glowing ads.
Emerging Tech

New brainwave reader tells teachers if students are concentrating

Massachusetts-based startup BrainCo has developed brainwave-reading headbands which can reportedly help reveal if students are concentrating in class. Here's how they're being used.
Emerging Tech

Fears about kids’ screen use may have been overblown, Oxford researchers find

Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health. But is this true? A recent study from the University of Oxford takes a closer look.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.