How Secure Are ATMs?

March 29, 2021

How Secure Are ATMs?

Automated teller machines (ATMs) have been increasingly targeted for theft and cyberattacks and they’ve also been used as vessels of attack by cybercriminals. ATMs are essentially highly vulnerable unattended cash vaults to criminals and in desperate financial times like right now, ATMs are heavily targeted.


Be cautious when using ATMs to draw out or deposit cash and cheques. One of the main hazards here is the use of ATM skimmers. Skimmers are known to be small devices that a malicious actor attaches to the card readers of an ATM to steal your credentials when you insert your card. 

It can be extremely hard to detect a skimmer by simply looking. You can check for signs of glue residue along the sides of the scanner, compare the one you’re using to the other ones nearby, and even try pulling on it to ensure that it is actually part of the real machine. You'd be surprised how many fake scanners have popped off when a person has pulled on them.


For the past decade, malware programs have been a major issue for ATMs. There have been instances of malware attacks on ATMs that allowed cash to pour out and other instances where an attacker would be able to steal debit card credentials and PINs from recent users of the machine.

How do you combat malware-infected ATMs? For your everyday person, it’s nearly impossible to know if an ATM has been infected with malware. What you can do is regularly monitor your bank statements for suspicious activity or even signs of potential identity theft. If you monitor constantly, you have a higher chance of getting any future issues resolved quickly and promptly if they do occur. 


Using ATMs Safely

Alongside the general physical safety worries of making financial transactions in a public space, there are the risks of card jamming and skimming that we mentioned earlier. It’s important to take the precautions of keeping yourself, your card credentials, and your PIN safe when using ATM machines. 


Here are a few general tips you should follow:

  • Be aware of your spatial surroundings when engaging with an ATM. Check for anything potentially suspicious such as damage to the ATM or people standing nearby.


  • Try to stick to bank ATMs that are trusted rather than no-name ATMs at convenience stores and other public spaces.


  • Check the ATM before inserting your card. Does anything look unfamiliar or off? If you do notice anything strange, report it to the bank institution if you can.


  • If you’re using drive-by ATMs, check your surroundings first and always lock your car doors.


  • Be ready with your card before you approach the ATM. This will reduce the amount of time it takes you to dig around your wallet or bag which leaves you vulnerable to a potential physical attack.


  • Try to avoid visiting an ATM at night but if you need to, stick to ATMs that are located in a well-lit safe space. 


  • Keep cash out of sight at all times.


Always stay alert to your surroundings when using ATMs. If your information is stolen and it isn’t detected quickly, this can be extremely damaging and hard to recover from, so ensure you’re always checking your bank statements for potentially suspicious activity.

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