What is 'jackpotting' and how can you protect yourself?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Noelle Neff

Considering how widespread the purpose of technology is, it is not surprising that certain individuals have discovered ways to use computers to aid their malicious goals. One of the latest endeavors of this nature is called “jackpotting”. In simple terms, it involves viruses that are uploaded to an ATM machine and, in turn, give hackers the ability to control the outflow of money.

A Brief Overview of Jackpotting

Another name for jackpotting is “logical attacks”. For this type of virus to work, one must physically upload the malware to the ATM. After the software and the mainframe of the ATM are in sync, the hacker will have the ability to take control over the money that is inside the machine. This is done by telling the ATM how much cash needs to be dispensed at a certain time. Thus, hypothetically, one could completely rob any given machine by requesting constant outflows of money through multiple transactions.

How does it relate to regular users?

According to the experts at Xcela Wealth, an Australian financial institution specializing in educating citizens on ways to improve their personal finances, the short answer is that it does not impact regular banking customers directly. The fact that the ATM is forced to dispense cash does not interfere with the users’ personal information or any of their funds deposited to the bank. It does, however, steal capital from the bank that would otherwise be used by the members. So, although this new form of robbery is not directly threatening people, it will have implications that can affect them negatively. For example, a person who is in urgent need of cash may not be able to get any from a local ATM because it has been jackpotted.

A Typical Theft

The reason why people have been able to conduct such an obvious theft is due to their highly-coordinated efforts. To get around any suspicion from the general public, the perpetrators often showcase themselves as repair technicians that are trying to do a regular maintenance on the machines. Naturally, questioning someone’s identity in such a situation is not the expected course of action. By the time that someone realizes that these individuals are not actually going to repair anything, the “technicians” are already far away with a sizable portion of the money that was in the ATM.

Witnessing a Robbery

Given the sensitive nature of this crime, seeing anything that might be even slightly out of the ordinary constitutes grounds for probable cause. That means that a police officer will be within his rights to stop and question somebody who may be showcasing themselves as a repair technician, although they may truly hold that title and have no criminal tendencies whatsoever. In case of someone witnessing jackpotting, they should refrain from heroic actions and report the crime to the authorities. Trying to get involved is not always encouraged as some of the perpetrators have been labeled as previous offenders that might be armed.

Steps to Take

One of the best ways to avoid exposing oneself to any type of danger related to an ATM transaction is to use monitored machines. Large institutions usually offer 24-hour, indoor ATMs that are accessible to anyone who has a debit/credit card with that company. By using these rooms after hours, one is almost guaranteed that no criminal will have access as that would require them to scan their own card to open the door. Generally speaking, no offender will risk disclosing their identity by using their existing card to enter an indoor ATM that they are planning to rob. Not to mention that these rooms are always recorded, and the surveillance tapes can be used as evidence in court.

What to do if caught in the middle of jackpotting?

As Xcela Wealth explains, the way that people can upload their virus to an ATM is by acting like repair technicians. If someone is present when a person robs an ATM in this manner, they should attempt to distance themselves from the crime scene immediately. Personal safety should trump any willingness to go against the alleged “repair technicians”. Also, no actual checking or savings account has lost money because of jackpotting thus far. So, the fact that personal information will not be hindered makes it even easier to walk away. The only party that is at a loss is the bank itself. With financial institutions, however, the FDIC will ensure that their capital is recovered.

Ultimately, one must always be cautious about those around them when they are handling something as sensitive as credit or debit cards, pin codes, and cash withdrawals.

— Noelle Neff is an aspiring journalist and accomplished photographer who specializes in new technology and its impact on our daily lives. She lives in Coral Gables, Fla.

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