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EDITORIAL: ATM security breach very troubling

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: ATM security breach very troubling

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Last weekend’s theft of large sums of money from automatic teller machines (ATMs) represents a growing threat to security of the banking sector. The scare is that the breach was across the network of banks.
Though police investigations are ongoing, this development is relatively new to Barbados and suggests that we could indeed be the target of international criminals following the recent increase in the importation of a number of illegal guns.
We are not at all suggesting there is a link here, but we wish to emphasize that much more attention has to be placed on our national security in light of the transnational reach of the criminal underworld.
Last week, James Boyce, of Caribbean Cyber Security, said there has been a significant spike in the number of successful network breaches in the region over the past two years. Many years ago, South Africa had a major problem with attacks on ATM machines which appeared to have been carried out with military precision and technical know-how. Intelligence later confirmed that the nature and composition of these groups indicated a high level of organization.
Barbados probably hasn’t yet reached that stage but we need to be proactive before it gets out of hand. First, banks need to beef up security around these machines, both pyhsically and technologically. Very rarely, if at all, does one see security around these machines.
The move to plastic-based banking products has dramatically increased over the last ten years, fuelled by the need for banks to widen their services and indeed to meet the growing competition in the use of mobile banking services. 
This move has led unfortunately to an increase in crime related to the use of ATMs, so much so that a South African bank launched an ATM Security Week to bring attention to the growing problem associated with the trend.
However, the increased usage of cards at ATMs has also led to criminals exploring new scams to access unsuspecting consumers’ hard-earned cash. It is therefore incumbent upon financial institutions to increase public awareness around ATM security issues.
We do not know whether there are any initiatives under way, but there is a great need for further public education on this issue. Many people using this infrastructure are not technologically savvy and rely on getting help from others to conduct a transaction. This instantly makes them a target for fraudsters.
A personal identification number (PIN) is the key to accessing any account, and this should be kept safe and secret at all times. It should never be disclosed to anyone, not even a bank official. We would also advise that customers use one hand to cover the keypad while entering their PIN to ensure that no one can observe the number being entered. Customers who require assistance should always ask for help inside the bank.
Customers need to watch out for card swapping, a technique where distraction is used to swap a card, or card skimming, where a fraudster swipes a card through a device, thereby copying the details. Ultimately, customers should be aware at all times and never trust anyone.