Unmask ATM fraud with the right surveillance system

May 25, 2017 | Coverage

By Eifeh Strom for asmag.com

ATMs are there for our convenience, yet they’ve also become a gateway for criminals to commit fraud. There are many ways to attack ATMs and the people using them. While physical attacks are a concern, nowadays card skimming and fraud cause far more damage.

Skimming and cash harvesting continue to be problems for ATMs worldwide. In the U.S. alone, the number of compromised ATMs and merchant devices rose 30 percent in 2016, according to a recent report by FICO; however, the European ATM Crime Report by the European ATM Security Team (EAST) found card skimming attacks in Europe decreased 20 percent from in 2016. Despite this, ATM related fraud attacks still increased in Europe by 26 percent in 2016, according to EAST. Around 60 percent of compromises in the U.S. were at non-bank ATMs, such as those in convenience stores, according to FICO. The remainder occurred at bank ATMs or point-of-sale (POS) devices, such as card payment machines at retailers.

Although the rising number in ATM fraud doesn’t sound promising, deploying the right type of cameras and having in place an effective video management system (VMS) will allow ATM operators to prevent attacks before it’s too late.

Challenges in ATM Monitoring

Environmental challenges are difficult to control. Changes in lighting because of sunlight is one of the major challenges inherent in monitoring ATMs. With many ATMs outdoors, cameras must be able to deal with the changing brightness of the sun, as well as darkness once the sun goes down, and any other changes in environment. Video surveillance cameras, then, must be able to adjust to these changes.

“March Networks offers a line of purpose-built ATM cameras that incorporate both high dynamic range and excellent low light performance to ensure that images are never overexposed or silhouetted,” said Daniel Caggiula, Market Solutions Manager at March Networks. In terms of field of view (FOV), March Network ATM cameras can deliver a 3-foot vertical FOV, which captures ATM users from the waist up to ensure important details are visible.

Another challenge is being able to manage and monitor ATM transactions with limited staff across dozens or even hundreds of branch locations. “Bank fraud investigators are often forced to search for evidence by conducting basic thumbnail and timeline searches, relying on poor quality video that can be slow to download and costly to store,” explained Uma Welingkar, VP of Product Management at 3VR. “Timeline searches also require users to know approximately when an incident occurred. The greater the possible time range, the more video there is to manually sort through in order to identify suspects or other important information, making for time-consuming, inefficient, and expensive fraud investigations. Most importantly, it can be difficult to product high quality evidence to convict criminals.”

Building the Right Surveillance Solution

The vulnerability of ATMs make building the most effective surveillance system for monitoring extremely important. Considerations such as solution reliability and high quality cameras are only a fraction of a successful solution.

“Financial institutions are currently pursuing proactive solutions, which allow them to save on costs and achieve a maximum return on the investments made. To this end, they need to rely on a committed manufacturer with whom the bank can tackle future challenges,” said Raquel Elias, Marketing Manager at SCATI.

The best solution enables fraud prevention and raises real-time alarms in the event of physical aggression or sabotage at ATMs, according to Elias. Such a solution should also always be integrated with transactional monitoring systems. “The most important thing is offering a comprehensive and specialized security platform that can be adapted to the specific requirements of each bank and to the demands and regulations of the environment (standards and legislation, corporate changes, etc.),” she added.

Caggiula opined, “To monitor ATMs effectively, financial institutions should look for a video surveillance solution that integrates high-definition video with presence detection analytics and transaction data, and includes reporting capabilities to help identify anomalies more easily.”

Furthermore, the 24-hour nature of ATMs results in a significant amount of video surveillance data. To process this data, a robust video management system (VMS) is crucial for effective ATM monitoring.

“A VMS solution built on an open architecture can be integrated with ATM and teller systems to add context to video evidence. Such integration allows a fraud investigator to research a complaint by reviewing ATM surveillance video footage combined with ATM transaction data and check images,” Welingkar said.

The inclusion of centralized management is another important feature. Due to the multi-location nature of most banks and credit unions, centralized management would offer the ability to manage and search videos across hundreds of locations globally, configure cameras remotely, automate and set schedules for required software updates remotely, and system health monitoring to receive alerts when any equipment is down.

Importance of Analytics

An effective VMS for ATM monitoring should make it easy to cost-effectively store and search through high volumes of video quickly to find evidence of criminal activity. Video analytics such as facial surveillance and license plate recognition (LPR) are a crucial tool for quickly conducting real-time searches using specific criteria to find relevant information and evidence.

For example, facial recognition analytics can be used to provide real-time alerts across the company to proactively prevent criminals from casing multiple locations. “In many cases, institutions have been able to capture a face associated with a counterfeit check and then monitor all branches for that individual to prevent repeat offenders from striking again,” Welingkar explained. “3VR facial surveillance helps investigators identify and track suspects, and develop trends on potentially fraudulent activity across branch locations.”

License plate recognition analytics adds another level of security to ATM monitoring by allowing investigators to monitor drive up ATM locations and identify suspects associated with fraudulent transactions.

“3VR LPR analytics can catalog license plate information from parking lots, drive-up windows, ATM locations, and entry gates, allowing security teams to search quickly and find evidence on vehicle-related activity,” Welingkar said. Banks can then use this technology to identify license plates that correspond to fraudulent activity at outdoor ATM machines.

Analytics such as presence detection and loitering can help banks proactively identify instances of potential cash harvesting or ATM skimming and investigate each incident rapidly, according to Caggiula. “Loitering detection is an important analytic for ATM vestibules, where someone loitering in the space might dissuade other ATM customers from entering the vestibule or pose a security issue.”

Presence detection analytics, which is integrated in March Networks Searchlight for Banking software, and transaction data can help determine whether an ATM is under an attack. “When no transactions are taking place and someone is detected in front of an ATM for an unusual period of time, the intelligent software triggers an alarm for an investigator to review,” Caggiula explained. “Conversely, if a single person is conducting multiple transactions at an ATM, this could be an indicator of cash harvesting. Again, an investigator can then use our software to quickly review all the data and video to better determine if a crime has taken place.”

Getting Ahead of Fraud

As technology advances and gets smarter, so do hackers. Statistics prove this. However, this does not mean ATMs have lost the fight. Just as reports show, despite a growing number in fraud cases and ATM attacks, the compromise time of a machine is shrinking. This means that even though criminals are getting smarter, so is security. While video surveillance is only one small part of an overall ATM security solution, with the proper system in place, ATM operators can continue to monitor for any unusual activity and do their best stay ahead of fraud.