Reprogramming Your ATM For Fun And For Profit (Mainly For Profit)

from the not-so-hard-at-all dept

There was some buzz last week after CNN showed a video of an ATM machine that had been programmed to believe it had $5 bills instead of $20s (so any withdrawal actually gave you 4X the money you asked for). The guy who did this just walked in and knew the code to reprogram the ATM. He then left the ATM programmed that way, and the ATM gave a lot of people extra money for nine days before someone pointed out the problem. So how easy would it be for anyone else to do this? Apparently it's ridiculously easy. With a bit of hunting online, it's not too hard to obtain a copy of the manual for the type of ATM machine used, including instructions on how to switch it to diagnostic mode. You do need a password, but the manual lists the typical default passwords that it seems likely many of these ATM owners failed to switch. Hopefully, this new burst of publicity over the issue will encourage owners of the machines to change their passwords -- but if you happen to see certain ATMs with unusually long lines in the near future (and don't mind committing fraud), you might want to withdraw some money.

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  1. identicon
    Comboman, 21 Sep 2006 @ 9:52am

    Get off your high horse.

    From reading the responses here, I must assume that everyone in the world is a crook with the exception of Techdirt commenters. I'm not at all surprised that it took 9 days to discover the error and I don't question the honesty of the customers that used the machine. Do you actually count the cash that comes out every time you use an ATM? Do you look at the printed recept? Based on the number of times I've seen recepts from previous customers still in the slot when I go to use an ATM and the number of people that just grab their money and toss the recept without looking at it, I'd say the majority of people fall into this category. Even if they did notice the extra bills, they probably just assumed that they pressed the wrong key on the machine at withdrew more than they wanted to. Twenty years ago, people were distrustful of ATMs and double-checked everything, but this is a mature technology now and people take it for granted that it always works. Kinda like UPC scanners at the grocery store; everyone complains about the little old who holds up the line by double-checking her bill but have you ever checked yours? They are frequently in error (usually in the store's favor).

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