The February 2023 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

ATM Skimming Very Profitable

A Few Days "Work" Nets $60,000

2 min read
ATM Skimming Very Profitable

There was a story in the Washington Post a few days ago about a single skimming device placed on a Washington DC-area bank's ATM that netted the thieves some $60,000 if not more in just three days. The device was spotted by a technician working on the ATM,  who then snapped a picture of it. The tech went inside the bank to tell officials about finding the skimmer, but when they returned a few minutes later to the ATM, the skimming device had already been removed.

I know I shouldn't be surprised by how easy and profitable this crime is to commit, but I still am. This story last autumn says that the ATM Industry Association estimates that over $1 billion a year is now lost each year globally to ATM-related crimes.

How profitable the crime is apparently depends on location and a bit of luck, as well, I suppose.

For instance, there was this story last December that skimmers in the north-west Chicago suburbs required eight days to steal "only" $20,000 at one bank location whereas other skimmers were able to take $70,000 after only two days of placing an ATM skimmer at another bank not that far away.

Does anyone know if there are any stats on the average and mean times of a skimmer being placed on an ATM, the location by average household income, and the total amounts skimmed?

Customers who get hit by a skimmer usually get their losses covered by the bank. The same is usually true (at least in the US) if their bank accounts are hacked into on-line. But as this Los Angeles Timesstory indicates, if it is a business account that is hacked or skimmed from, you are out-of-luck. Last year, the FBIwarned small businesses to be aware that they were now being specifically targeted for on-line scams.

Last year, I noted that the bank Absa, the largest retail bank in South Africa, was piloting an ATM that will spray you with pepper spray if you try to tamper with it in some way. I haven't been able to find out whether the bank has made this standard equipment on their ATMs there. Anyone know?

The Conversation (0)

An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

Keep Reading ↓Show less