Technological transformation at ATMs combats targeted attacks

Technological transformation at ATMs combats targeted attacks

Marc Terry

Managing Director International at Cardtronics

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Technological transformation at ATMs combats targeted attacks

12.04.2019 10:45 am

The epidemic of cash machine attacks across the UK is a serious cause for concern with attacks having risen an average of 22% per year since 2014. The attacks, often carried out with heavy machinery, not only damage the ATMs themselves, but cause widespread disruption to the community. Local stores are damaged, and communities are deprived of vital access to basic financial services and cash. If this weren’t bad enough, the people most badly affected are those least able to travel further afield for their cash; the elderly and vulnerable. Altogether, ATM attacks cost UK communities a total of £100 million over the past year.

Just this year, Northern Ireland has seen a significant spike in ATM crime with 9 attacks carried out in the last four months alone. This has led to a dedicated team of detectives being appointed to investigate and track down the perpetrators, but our focus at Cardtronics is firmly set on stopping them happening in the first place. Not only are attack numbers rising, but we are seeing a reckless escalation of violence. Criminals are using increasingly dangerous methods in an attempt to gain access to the cash, including gas explosions, risking the safety of local residents and innocent bystanders. And the problem isn’t going away.  If we continue to see ATM attacks increasing at the current rate,  the numbers will have trebled by 2025.  At Cardtronics we have invested heavily in the Secure ATM initiative, which introduces new anti-ATM crime technology into our machines to prevent successful attacks, and forensic solutions to assist the police in securing convictions.

It is time to act to prevent attacks and catch those responsible which is why our estate of ATMs is now protected by some of the most cutting edge technology that has increased the likelihood of catching criminals by as much as 50% and neutralises even the most destructive approaches to ATM theft. We believe this investment is crucial in protecting both ATMs and, importantly, communities, from the rising tide of attacks.

Foiling gas explosions

Using gas to blow up ATMs is an increasingly common method used by criminals who wrongly believe that creating a large enough explosion will guarantee success. It is in fact quite the opposite. Our machines now incorporate preventative measures that can identify explosive gases and neutralise them, preventing the explosion and foiling the attack.

In addition to neutralising the dangers of these uncontrolled explosions, on detecting the start of a gas attack, our machines notify our National Crime Centre which enables us to both prevent an attack from being successful and liaise with local law enforcement to mobilise a joint response team to attend the site immediately.  This saves thousands of pounds worth of criminal damage and increases the chances of catching the perpetrators. More importantly, this technology stops harmful explosions, keeping the community safe.


Note destruction technology

Note destruction is a major deterrent to criminals. In the increasingly unlikely event that a criminal gains access to one of our Secure ATMs, this technology stains the money inside the machine, rendering it completely useless. When the machine comes under attack, sensors inside the cash cassette cause dye pods to explode and cover the cash with green dye, making the notes easily identifiable and difficult to use. Just this February, an attack was carried out in Essex and during the raid, the note destruction solution was activated and dye was sprayed over all the notes. The gang made away with the cash but were not able to use it as we put out a “be on the lookout” notices to shopkeepers and local people.  Dye stained notes were recovered in a police raid some weeks later which may well have been from our machine.

As an alternative to dye, glue is also used to stick the notes together when an attack takes place. With both of these technologies, the ATM operator can have the value of the ruined currency reimbursed from the Bank of England. And, as criminals find it increasingly difficult to use the cash they steel, it reduces the incentive to cause damage, destroy businesses and harm communities.

Forensic DNA Markers

We have also invested in technology to help police identify the culprits of an ATM attack, such as forensic DNA markers. These are invisible and permanent fluids that are sprayed onto criminals during an attack. A spot of gel, even the size of a speck of dust, is enough to link an individual back to a specific attack and provide sufficient evidence to convict the correct perpetrator. These markers can still be found on the skin of ATM criminals up to five years after the crime.

Artificial Intelligence and specialist intelligence operatives

The latest advancements in AI mean we are now able to start predicting when an attack may happen, even before a crime takes place.  Patterns of behaviours, based on previous ATM crime and overlaid with the knowledge of our estate, can be used to predict when the next attack is most likely to occur. It can map the exact locations of expected attacks, allowing us to ensure extra measures are in place to prevent these attacks from being successful or stop them from happening altogether. This is most effective when used alongside our specialist intelligence teams who have years of experience in finding and collating intelligence relating to potential crimes and working with law enforcement to ensure that ATM criminals are brought to justice.

We are seeing considerable success from the introduction of these initiatives, and the innovation taking place around ATM security.  Only a handful of ATM attacks now actually result in the loss of any money and we are working hard to reduce this even further. At Cardtronics, our commitment to the Secure ATM initiative sees us work closely with local police forces to clamp down on crime, ensuring our ATM network is the safest nationwide and protecting our retail partners and cash-dependent communities up and down the country.

Our Cost of Crime report details a five-point manifesto for reducing ATM crime and we are calling for all industry participants to sign up and drive down the number of attacks in the UK.  In 2018, the Cardtronics Secure ATM Initiative helped convict over 130 criminals who are now serving a total of over 300 years in prison.  We are extremely proud of this and won’t stop innovating until we have stamped out ATM crime completely.

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