An Imprisoned Hacker Invented an ATM Attachment That Stops Skimmers

Valentin Boanta has a lot of free time on his hands—five years worth, to be exact. That's because Boanta is currently serving a prison sentence for, according to Reuters, "supplying gadgets to an organized crime gang used to conceal ATM skimmers." So with all that time to think about what he's done, the apparently penitent prisoner spent six months developing an ATM add-on to prevent the exact crime that put him there in the first place.

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The device, which Boanta calls the Secure Revolving System (SRS), can attach to any current ATM machine and change the way it reads your card, preventing those pesky, increasingly discreet skimmers form stealing your info. Current skimming devices work by reading the card's magnetic tape lengthwise and in a sequential order. But as the above video demonstrates, the SRS requires you to insert your card widthwise before rotating it to be inserted into the ATM, making any attached Skimmer effectively useless.

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Boanta, who was arrested back in 2009, does appear to genuinely regret the role he played in perpetuating the already rampant skimming phenomenon:

When I got caught I became happy. This liberation opened the way to working for the good side. Crime was like a drug for me. After I was caught, I was happy I escaped from this adrenaline addiction. So that the other part, in which I started to develop security solutions, started to emerge.

Of course, giving the appearance of contrition certainly won't hurt his odds at parole, but it's nice to think he's made a sincere turnaround. And while the SRS can prevent all current methods of skimming, it's really only a matter of time before some industrious young heister figures out a way around the new mechanism. Still, we'll be able to rest easier for a bit, at least, once the attachment comes out, which should supposedly happen "soon." [Reuters via Ars Technica]

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DISCUSSION

One of the reason you see ATM's require you to insert the card manually and pull it out manually is because those mechanism's fail over time and cards get captured, trapped, or jammed. At 2AM on a Sunday if you put your card in one, hear a gear grind to a halt and ERROR on the screen you're going to be pissed if you're in the middle of nowhere with no cash and now no card. This device looks as if it's going to compound the mechanism quite a bit increasing the points of failure. You may say 'well the bank's are going to have to keep a closer eye on it' but in truth all they can do is wait until it fails then have it fixed. This thing will be failing 3x as much as an automatic card feeder pissing off many more customers.