ATM robberies -- the hard vs. easy methodsJoel Reidenberg in USA Today, May 10, 2013
The arrests in New York of eight members of a cybercrime ring believed responsible for pilfering $45 million from ATM machines shows how scalable digital theft is compared to the old-school physical version.
"As much as we have enormously benefited from our dependence on digital systems, we also have significant new costs," says Fordham law professor Joel Reidenberg.
Consider the arrests in Quebec last March of another gang specializing in ATM robbery. These thieves worked for months last summer physically cutting out and hauling away the guts of 130 ATM machines across Ontario and Quebec.
These bold, physical fit-criminals worked their tails off, running around in the wee hours of the morning, carrying crow bars and acetylene torches to literally rip off ATM machines from pay day loan stores, bingo halls, flea markets, movie theaters, hockey arenas and grocery stores. You can almost see them sweating in video released by the Halton Regional Police. Their take for all that hard work: $1 million.
By way of contrast, all the eight suspects arrested in New York had to carry around was prepaid debit cards embedded with account access data stolen by hackers. They are accused of being operatives in a highly co-ordinated ring, stealing approximately $2.4 million from nearly 3,000 ATMs across the metropolitan area in two days in February. And that was just a small part of $45 million authorities say this gang scored.
As tech companies, banks and retailers push forward with mobile payments, GPS location marketing and customer profiling, the complexities are opening new opportunities for the cyber underground.
This gang not only hacked corporate networks to steal account data, they also manipulated accounts, including eliminating withdrawal limits. All told authorities believe they caused criminal losses from more than 4,500 ATMs in about 20 countries.
"As a society we're going to have to begin to look more carefully at systemic vulnerabilities the digital world presents us with," observes Reidenberg.