Eye of the card holder: new CCTV solutions now viable protection for ATMs

Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) fraud is on the rise and in South Africa this is no exception.

August 6, 2013

By Laurence Smith, Executive at Graphic Image Technologies

Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) fraud is on the rise and in South Africa this is no exception. While the spate of ATM bombings have dissipated in recent months as a result of closer collaboration between banks and the South African Police Force, there are syndicates that use sophisticated card skimmers to unknowingly defraud individuals and banks of Millions of Rands.

Just last month a co-ordinated effort by a syndicate with a global footprint netted a total $45m in the United States alone, and even some banks in South Africa were not spared. The one day ‘flashmob’ event was touted as one of the largest and most brazen bank heists via ATMs the world has ever seen and because of the simultaneous attacks, banks were totally unaware until it was too late.

With no clear strategy to prevent these types of attacks, the trend is likely to continue if banks do not take preventative measures to apprehend these criminals. Since the attack last month, there is currently a lot of interest from banks regarding Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) security solutions for ATMs.

Physical security at every ATM around the country is simply not feasible and also not effective given the nature of the fraud that is occurring at ATMs. Banks are now looking to affordable and sensible video surveillance solutions that can catch these criminals in the act, so that they can be traced to face the long arm of the law.

In the past CCTV solutions were simply not financially viable. Traditional video monitoring was expensive to roll out and used a large amount of bandwidth to get the video back to a centralised control room. Cellular solutions streaming high bit rates were stifled by the cost of bandwidth over mobile networks and even over ADSL or ISDN, broadband internet’s inconsistent delivery of data resulted in poor video quality, which hampered remote pure IP-based video surveillance as a practical solution. Additionally, large storage capacity was required to archive video footage, and a rigorous IT regiment was required to swap storage mediums to ensure the system remained operational.

This has changed. There have been rapid advancements in CCTV technology as a pro-active surveillance tool to act as a deterrent, to catch criminals quicker and to up conviction rates. New developments in video compression and broadband technology now allow for a true narrowband CCTV offering, which uses proprietary compression algorithms to deliver clear video using as little as 8kbps of data.

Thanks to the low bit rate, these video-streams can be cost-effectively delivered directly to desktops, smartphones or iPad and Android tablets via GPRS, 3G, ADSL or any other IP-based WAN link at a fraction of the bandwidth, storage capacity and cost of other IP-based CCTV solutions.

In the banking arena, security personnel can access the solution from either the control centre, or via their mobile devices and have a real-time view of the ATMs. The CCTV solution can also be set that whenever a transaction takes place at an ATM the cameras, which are strategically placed in and around the premises, start rolling and provide time stamps of when transactions take place. It is also possible to take a snapshot automatically when a bank card is inserted into the ATM and relay this picture to a central control room. If there is a security incident, security personnel can roll back to the time-stamped footage to get a complete view of what happened at that specific point in time.

Software solutions are also available that enable security personnel at banks to view and review footage, create and export a video synopsis for post-event investigative purposes for use in law enforcement and convictions. This gives banks truly an extra layer of protection to ensure the non-repudiation of transactions by scammers and to protect themselves against ATM fraud.