Skip to main content

ATM Skimmers- a conversation

This story from Krebs on Security reminded me of an ATM related incident a few months ago.

I normally use an ATM located in the reception area of the headquarters of the state police. It's just across the skyway from where I work, and most importantly, it's owned by a credit union that doesn't charge me for withdrawals.  Free ATM's are a good thing.

A couple months ago,  as I was about to slide my card, I looked up at the ceiling, scanned the nearby walls, grabbed the card reader and wiggled it up and down a bit, and bent down and looked at the bottom of the reader.

The receptionist look at me,  'um - can I help you?'

Me: "I was just thinking about the probability of finding a card skimmer on an ATM in the lobby of the state police headquarters.  Do you supposed it's possible?"

Her: (laugh) "I heard about those - how do they work?"

Me: [short explanation]

Her: "I don't know if I could tell the difference."

Me: "I'm not sure I can either..."

We both agreed that it was unlikely that someone would be able to skim this particular ATM. The receptionist is always behind the desk, facing the ATM; the lobby is only open business hours, and that because of heavy use by law enforcement officers, odds are it would be detected.

I like that ATM.

There's a new dance that's popular now, called the 'Skimmer Squint'.  It's when the patron bends over & looks up at the bottom of the card reader, peers into the slot, steps back, glances left, right, up & down, grabs the reader and jiggles it...



  1. I always do that too. It's hard to judge how hard to pull before you break a legitimate ATM-card nozzle, vs pull off a skimmer. I'd like to find one in real life, just to compare the force to


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Cargo Cult System Administration

Cargo Cult: …imitate the superficial exterior of a process or system without having any understanding of the underlying substance --Wikipedia During and after WWII, some native south pacific islanders erroneously associated the presence of war related technology with the delivery of highly desirable cargo. When the war ended and the cargo stopped showing up, they built crude facsimiles of runways, control towers, and airplanes in the belief that the presence of war technology caused the delivery of desirable cargo. From our point of view, it looks pretty amusing to see people build fake airplanes, runways and control towers  and wait for cargo to fall from the sky.
The question is, how amusing are we?We have cargo cult science[1], cargo cult management[2], cargo cult programming[3], how about cargo cult system management?Here’s some common system administration failures that might be ‘cargo cult’:
Failing to understand the difference between necessary and sufficient. A daily backup …

Ad-Hoc Versus Structured System Management

Structured system management is a concept that covers the fundamentals of building, securing, deploying, monitoring, logging, alerting, and documenting networks, servers and applications. Structured system management implies that you have those fundamentals in place, you execute them consistently, and you know all cases where you are inconsistent. The converse of structured system management is what I call ad hoc system management, where every system has it own plan, undocumented and inconsistent, and you don't know how inconsistent they are, because you've never looked.

In previous posts (here and here) I implied that structured system management was an integral part of improving system availability. Having inherited several platforms that had, at best, ad hoc system management, and having moved the platforms to something resembling structured system management, I've concluded that implementing basic structure around system management will be the best and fastest path to…

The Cloud – Provider Failure Modes

In The Cloud - Outsourcing Moved up the Stack[1] I compared the outsourcing that we do routinely (wide area networks) with the outsourcing of the higher layers of the application stack (processor, memory, storage). Conceptually they are similar:In both cases you’ve entrusted your bits to someone else, you’ve shared physical and logical resources with others, you’ve disassociated physical devices (circuits or servers) from logical devices (virtual circuits, virtual severs), and in exchange for what is hopefully better, faster, cheaper service, you give up visibility, manageability and control to a provider. There are differences though. In the case of networking, your cloud provider is only entrusted with your bits for the time it takes for those bits to cross the providers network, and the loss of a few bits is not catastrophic. For providers of higher layer services, the bits are entrusted to the provider for the life of the bits, and the loss of a few bits is a major problem. These …