Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Stealing PinCodes from ATM using Thermal Cameras [How to] [Security]

Researchers have found a way of how a Hacker can steal your ATM PIN Code by just using an Thermal Camera. At the USENIX Security Symposium last week, researchers Keaton Mowery, Sarah Meiklejohn and Stefan Savage from the University of California at San Diego presented their paper "Heat of the Moment: Characterizing the Efficacy of Thermal Camera-Based Attacks.(PDF)".
And this technique as compared with others is much more easy and a hacker can easily take your Pin Code with much less effort. A criminal can use a thermal (infrared) camera to detect residual heat from keypresses rather than current techniques using traditional video cameras.

Thermal imaging provides several advantages. Unlike with traditional cameras, visually masking the PIN pad does not defeat the attack, and the ability to automate PIN harvesting using computer software further simplifies the task.
The researchers gathered 21 volunteers and had them test 27 randomly selected PIN numbers using both a plastic PIN pad and a brushed metal PIN pad.
The strength of the participants' button presses and their body temperature were shown to affect the results to some degree. The researchers discovered that the metal pad made the attack nearly impossible to implement, but with the plastic PIN pad, it was even possible to determine from the heat signatures not only the numbers pressed but also the number order.
With the plastic PIN pad, the custom software the researchers wrote to automate the analysis had approximately an 80% success rate at detecting all digits from a frame 10 seconds after the person entered their PIN. The success rate was still over 60% using a frame 45 seconds after the PIN was entered. [Via]
So this is a pretty good technique, a criminal can easily have your Pin code. But luckily there are two factors most of the criminals don't know about this and secondly thermal cameras are a bit expensive, but this technique is soon to be adapted by criminals in near future.

So for security measures the best way to stay in safe zone is to use ATMs with metal PIN pads to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. And according to a survey, a third of peopleadmit that they do not check ATMs for tampering before withdrawing cash, so better be aware of that too.

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