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Security The Almighty Buck

Kids With Operators Manual Alert Bank Officials: "We Hacked Your ATM" 378

An anonymous reader writes "Two 14-year-olds hacked a Bank of Montreal ATM after finding an operators manual online that showed how to gain administrative control. Matthew Hewlett and Caleb Turon alerted bank employees after testing the instructions on an ATM at a nearby supermarket. At first the employees thought the boys had the PIN numbers of customers. 'I said: "No, no, no. We hacked your ATM. We got into the operator mode,"' Hewlett was quoted as saying. Then, the bank employees asked for proof. 'So we both went back to the ATM and I got into the operator mode again,' Hewlett said. 'Then I started printing off documentations like how much money is currently in the machine, how many withdrawals have happened that day, how much it's made off surcharges. Then I found a way to change the surcharge amount, so I changed the surcharge amount to one cent.'"
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Kids With Operators Manual Alert Bank Officials: "We Hacked Your ATM"

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  • by Ghostworks ( 991012 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @03:55PM (#47197435)

    Back before the internet, it was common practice to put hard-coded admin passwords in documentation, in case anyone should forget the real password. In some industries (say, construction road signs) it just never occurred to them that anyone would ever care to look it up for a prank. In other industries, like ATMs, the assumption was that documentation was obscure and difficult to lay hands on without writing to a real person who then had to mail a manual to a real address of an existing customer.

    The fact that they still do this is depressing, but doesn't surprise me in the least.

  • And other stuff (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:02PM (#47197519) Homepage Journal

    For example, if they find bleach AND draino under the sink, you're also charged with "Chemical Weapons Possession" if they find candles and matches and charcoal, you have "bomb making materials". The spooks can get you for anything.

  • Demo Disks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ronin Developer ( 67677 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:03PM (#47197521)

    Years ago, when ATMs were first becoming available, someone I know worked as a security exec for a large bank. Seems back then, each ATM came with a demo disk hat, when inserted into a floppy disk port inside the ATM's housing (but, easily accessed) placed the machine into demo mode and allowed the operator full control of the device. The sales operator could then fully demonstrate ALL the features of the ATM - including the automatic dispensing of cash.

    With furled eyebrows, he asked whatever became of all the demo disks after the ATM was installed..nobody knew...just assumed they were thrown out. He asked if they considered this a problem. And, he was told 'No'. At the time, stealing the ATM was all the rage and his concerns were discounted...until one day when money just started disappearing from ATMs. Seems, somebody else found or had one of those disks and realized what they had.

    Pretty scary these kids could find a manual online and that the command sequence to place it into admin mode could be done from the user console vs a separate terminal. One has to wonder if they could have dispensed cash like a Pez dispensor like was possible with the old demo disks.

  • by infogulch ( 1838658 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:10PM (#47197603)
    From this to Highway Sign Hacking [] to that researcher that made a botnet of home routers with default config to ping the whole of ipv4, I really hope admins are getting the point that you can't just drop appliances in public places without adjusting the default configuration. What critical infrastructure is left out there just begging for someone with an operator's manual to wreck it, or even worse, exploit it? Can we get a wake-up call to the administrators of these appliances?
  • by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:13PM (#47197645) Homepage

    though nowadays routers come with individualized passwords, but they didn't used to

    When Verizon FiOS first came to my area, the autogenerated WEP password was based on a 5 character SSID. There were online tools [] that you could use to lookup what the default password would be and almost no one, relatively speaking, bothered to change it from the default. Came in handy on more than a few occasions to get free wifi as just about anywhere you go you were in range of someone that had FiOS.

    Another brand used the wireless MAC as the WEP key. shm

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:20PM (#47197747) Journal

    First, dozens of people shouldn't have administrative access to a particular ATM at once. Where I work, most systems have one or two people with passwords. If both people get hit by a bus, you can boot from a USB stick and proceed from there, but only two people have admin accounts.

    Regarding the logistics of controlling who has access to what, every organization with more than a very few employees needs to manage who has access to what, and that's been true for thousands of years. It's very much a solved problem. Most companys use Active Directory for this purpose. Since ATMs already have card readers, an obvious answer for routine maintenance is to have the employee swipe their employee ID card. The ATM then uses its existing network connection to authorize access via AD. Back in the days of Benjamin Franklin, the solution was a key rack held by a designated employee. Other remployees would check out the keys they needed to use that day. It's kind of an interesting problem, but one that has been solved since roughly the Roman empire or so.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:25PM (#47197807)

    Honestly, I don't think even a wake-up call would do anything. Prime example from my life:

    I went to a community college for a few years to get gen-eds out of the way cheap before going to a real college. In one of the buildings, there was a break room that was really popular with students despite not really being anything special - some tables and chairs, and that was about it. I had no idea why it was so popular when there were other break rooms on campus that had TVs and better Wi-Fi access and the like.

    A few days in, I found out why. There was an older soda machine in the back of the room, and every so often I'd buy one. Almost every time, I'd wind up getting two (or sometimes three) sodas when I paid for one. At first I thought I was just really lucky, but then I found out that the machine was badly secured. There was a default button combination you could press that would take the machine into admin mode, where you could do things like get it to dispense free drinks. Doing this would cause a bottle to be loaded into position as if someone had paid for it, so the next person to buy a drink would get two.

    Apparently, this was a well-known 'secret' on campus. Even the professors did it. I can't tell you how much money the vending machine owner probably lost, and I'm sure they knew that something was up based on how quickly the stuff was disappearing and how the money didn't add up. This was about seven years ago.

    I went back to the same school to sign up for some classes just a month ago. On my way back, I stopped at that break room, and sure enough, that machine still hasn't had the password changed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:31PM (#47197881)
    I worked on a device that acted as a security gateway within major ISP networks. We read material/took courses/interviewed the various security best practices, guidelines and design suggestions gurus before coming up with the general architecture. We had one-time-use passwords, 2-factor auth, admin mode pw reset that required special hw dongles etc.

    The ISPs liked it initially, but their admins kept perma-locking the console, because they'd failed to enter the creds enough times. That forced the key-holder to fetch the dongle to reset the pw. It turned out, the "admins" were often high school dropouts who'd taken some remedial IT courses. Their qualifications were primarily that they'd do shift work for minimum wage, not any particular skill. As such, following printed, step-by-step instructions that required they enter the 2-factor random pw was *far* too complicated. They'd mix the pw order (secure card digits first vs. adminpass), screw up the capitalization etc etc. All the key-holder interventions st them too much downtime and paid overtime

    In the end, we ended up implementing the industry standard, 6-8 character alphanumeric + !@#...) fixed string password. No 2-factor, no admin lockout with a default password that could be reset by holding certain keys down during startup. All the cutting edge stuff was tossed, because the freakin' ISPs' admins were smeg heads.

  • Re:And other stuff (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2014 @05:17PM (#47198201)

    For example, if they find bleach AND draino under the sink, you're also charged with "Chemical Weapons Possession" if they find candles and matches and charcoal, you have "bomb making materials". The spooks can get you for anything.

    Wow didn't know that, your country sure is heading into hell on a one way ticket rollercoaster. Outlawing those is like convicting you because you have an offensive weapon (Car)

    So glad I don't live in that shit hole.

    (Not trolling or flame-baiting - just speaking truth)

  • by shadowrat ( 1069614 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @05:42PM (#47198355)
    The owner of the machine was probably a genius. The markup on soda is so astronomical that he could probably sell 7 or 8 each time and still come out ahead. He was just shrewdly undercutting his competition on campus.
  • Re:Hacked? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2014 @07:10PM (#47198775)
    It's 1-3-2-4 as in "first selection button, third selection button..." etc. That'll often get you into service mode. Then you can do all kinds of useful stuff. The most useful, in my experience, is to do a soft reset of the machine that often gets it to start accepting money again when it's being stupid and rejecting everyone's change. Sometimes, but not very often, you can get it to dispense whatever you want, but I've only gotten that to work once before.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain