Security Experts:

New Type of Mini-Skimmer Found in Europe

ATM skimming is still a problem in Europe, a not-for-profit organization that specializes in ATM security said in a report published on Friday.

The report from the European ATM Security Team (EAST) is based on information provided by the representatives of 22 countries at the 33rd EAST meeting held at Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) in June.

Of the 19 Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) and three non-SEPA countries, 18 saw instances of ATM skimming, with six of the respondents reporting increases and four reporting decreases in the number of incidents.

According to EAST, one country reported spotting new types of mini-skimmers that are designed to fit inside an ATM card reader to make them more difficult to detect.

These skimmers, which can be fitted on certain machines manufactured by consumer transaction technologies company NCR, are installed along with a small camera that captures the PIN as it's typed in by the victim.

In the same country, authorities found similar "insert mini-skimmers" that are translucent, EAST said. The representatives of a different country reported noticing that card skimmers are left in place for longer periods of time – on average, 4-5 days.

Mini Card Skimmer

The European Fraud Update study also reveals that ATMs are not the only types of terminals targeted by fraudsters. Eight countries have seen attacks on payment terminals installed at petrol stations, and six countries reported operations targeting point-of-sale (PoS) terminals. Ghost terminals, devices that are stolen and modified by the attackers, have been identified in one country.

Tactics such as cash trapping, when the criminal attaches a device to the ATM so that the cash is trapped before being dispensed, and transaction reversal fraud, where the fraudsters make it look like the machine cannot dispense the money, have also been seen in several countries across Europe, EAST said.

The use of ATM malware to steal money directly from cash machines or to harvest payment card information is becoming more common in Europe. In fact, EAST reports that these types of attacks are new to Western Europe.

A large majority of banks in Europe issue EMV (chip and PIN) cards, which are more difficult to clone. This, combined with numerous anti-fraud measures like geo-blocking, results in the fact that ATM related card skimming losses occur outside Europe, the United States being at the top of the list for such losses.

However, as security blogger Brian Krebs reminds, most European banks issue cards that have a magnetic stripe as well, to allow their customers to use them when traveling to countries where chip technology is not supported. Fraudsters harvest payment card data in Europe and send it to criminals in the United States, where it can be put to use.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.