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Growing Your ATM Fleet? Why Security Should be Priority No. 1

Filed under: ATM Security, IP Cameras, Banking

As online and mobile banking continue to grow in popularity, financial institutions are re-examining how they do business, with the goal of investing as much as possible in their digital channels.

The rise of new financial technology or “fintech” is changing traditional in-branch banking, and causing some banks to re-evaluate their bricks-and-mortar investments. But despite this digital shift, one area that remains surprisingly strong is consumer use of ATMs.

ATM and cash withdraw numbers continue to increase, even in established markets like North America, according to research and consulting firm RBR. The company’s 2016 market research forecasts the number of ATMs worldwide to grow to 4 million by 2021, with the most significant growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

The reason? ATMs are a cost-effective way to serve bank customers, especially in rural areas where it may not make sense to operate a full-scale retail bank branch. By placing ATMs in high-traffic locations, your bank or credit union can reach a lot of people, and even turn a profit with the right kind of ATM transaction fee.

But a word of caution:  there’s no point investing in new ATMs if you’re not prepared to make an investment in their security. Criminals continue to target bank machines, particularly those that are located away from bank branches. Without the proper security in place, ATMs could actually hinder, instead of help, your bank or credit union’s strategic growth plans.

Unique security challenges
Because they are unstaffed, ATMs can be easier targets for vandals and thieves. Loitering and property damage are common, while crimes like skimming and shimming (where criminals take data from a bank card’s EMV chip) continue to victimize thousands of people. Other types of attacks like jackpotting, where malware forces the ATM to spit out cash, are on the rise in parts of Europe.

Without the right ATM security plan in place, you risk the following:

  • You could lose business if customers don’t feel safe
    A 2016 Ipsos Public Affairs research report shows that half of Americans surveyed opted not to conduct an ATM transaction because someone was loitering in the vestibule.
    I would argue that you would see a similar customer response around ATMs that are dimly lit, appear to be vandalized or in poor condition, or are located in less than desirable locations. If customers don’t feel safe at your ATM, they’re not going to use the machine.
  • You could spend a lot of money on unplanned security
    If you haven’t fully thought out your ATM security plan, you may end up spending more to address surprise threats.
    In the Netherlands, for example, one bank is now deploying security guards to protect their ATMs from ram-raids and explosions. Criminals have been attacking the ATMs with explosives and using vehicles to rip out the machines and steal the cash. The bank’s deployment of security guards has come at a “major cost,” according to a bank spokesperson.
    Now, while you can’t always stop someone that is intent on physically attacking an ATM, you can mitigate the harm by planning ahead and strategically locating the machines. You can also invest in solutions that physically anchor the ATM to the ground, as well as video surveillance software that can help detect loitering and machine tampering. We’ll explore this last point further down in this blog.
  • You could harm your bank or credit union’s reputation
    So much of the business of banking is built on trust. Your customers rely on you to look after their money and protect their investments. Once that trust is broken, it’s hard to get it back.
    Just one skimmer installed at an ATM can victimize hundreds of people and trigger a barrage of negative press, impacting your bank’s brand and reputation. It’s a problem you don’t want, especially given that customer trust in traditional banks is already waning.

What’s the solution?
After reading the above, it’s easy to get discouraged about the state of ATM security. But take heart. ATMs can still be a great way to deliver financial services to more customers, cost-effectively. It just takes some research, planning and investment on your part. I recommend taking a multi-layered approach to security with the following:

  • Install video surveillance
    Not only will video surveillance help you investigate a crime after the fact, but it can also help detect and alert you to suspicious activity at your ATMs. When integrated with intelligent software and analytics, an advanced IP video solution can alert you to someone lingering at the machines but not conducting a transaction. This could be someone installing a skimming device or other tool designed to steal customer data.
  • When it comes to security cameras, be sure to install them around the machines, but also inside the ATMs in order to capture the highest quality images. There are IP cameras available that are purpose-built for ATMs, so they can capture images during the day (even in bright sunlight) and at night. You can also find custom-designed mounting brackets for these cameras that can keep the devices in place during the cash vaulting process, where door slams can shift a camera’s field of view.
  • Plan ahead and consult the experts
    Think about the location of your ATMs and always plan for high-traffic, well-lit locations. If possible, ensure your ATMs are inside an enclosure like a vestibule, and make sure that only authorized personnel have access to the machines for servicing.  Recent reports shows that off-site ATMs – those located away from bank branches – are more vulnerable to attacks, so keep this in mind when deciding on locations.
  • Finally, do a complete threat and risk assessment. Consider the various ways that ATMs can be attacked. Are you covering all your bases, including both physical and logical attacks? Because these types of crimes are evolving, I recommend consulting the experts. Most leading ATM manufacturers can detail the measures they use to harden against both types of attacks, and organizations like ATMIA have resources on these topics. Do your research and prepare to invest in multiple solutions if necessary to protect your assets.
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