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ATM security takes center stage

ATM security takes center stage
The growing popularity of online and self-service banking calls for new security measures to protect the banking sector. Gone are the days when adding a security guard for extra eyes would mitigate security risks, because transactions are no longer solely limited to the vicinity of the bank branch. This article discusses some ways which banks can secure themselves against the sophisticated modern criminal organization.

The recent arrest of eight men in connection with a reported US$2 million robbery at a UK bank was allegedly accomplished by compromising both the bank's physical and system security. The local law enforcement agency has noted that crimes against banks are evolving rapidly and highly organized.

Traditionally, there are three missioncritical points in a bank — ATMs, teller counters, and vaults. Today, online banking needs to be included in security considerations as well. While access control to the vaults is strictly controlled and limited to authorized personnel only, teller counters and ATMs are accessible to the public. However, while teller counters benefit from having security guards filter incoming crowd and are only accessible during operation hours, ATMs and online banking are usually unmanned, accessible round-the-clock, and remote.

The increase in human resource costs have prompted banks to set up more self-service counters and channels, such as ATMs and online banking ecosystems. While both forms of banking access are remote and accessible 24-hours a day, online banking is accessible to anyone with an internet connection, regardless of location.

Hence, banks need to prioritize both physical and system security equally to deter modern crime organizations and ensure their integrity.

ATMs are wonderful points of access for bank customers and reduce human resource costs for banks. The number of worldwide ATMs is expected to increase to over 3 million by the end of 2016, according to the ATM Industry Association estimates. “The general trend is a constantly growing installed base of ATMs worldwide, with an average growth rate of almost 50 percent in the coming four to five years,” concurred Jenny Mansson, Business Development Director of Banking & Finance at Axis Communications.

Security on this front requires extra measures, and hiring a security guard to preside over does not effectively deal with the security risks ATM kiosks face, such as skimming or misuses. “Consequently, banks will increase the ATMs and self-service areas. This does not only include video surveillance and access control to the area, but also new anti-skimming software and protective hardware for the ATMs,” added Mansson.

“The focus [for many banks] has been on investing in better equipment for investments for security around the coverage of high-risk areas. Banks do put surveillance into ATM lobbies, so they don't have to rely on manpower to police the ATMs,” explained Chris Mullins, North American Inter-Company Sales Manager — Banking and Finance Vertical at American Dynamics (Tyco Security Products). In addition, there are specific regulations regarding ATM surveillance systems, such as full coverage, adequate resolution, and video data storage for three months.

ATMs are often the first points to migrate to IP technology. “Many of these appliances [ATMs] are mostly inside buildings which require you to open a door using your magnetic stripbased ATM card. This is a good physical security starting point. But once inside the building, the quality of the video surveillance is often very poor. To make matters worse, another challenge is that the video recording has to be good in both low-light conditions at night and at noon when the sun is shining the brightest,” explained Dr. Magnus Ekerot, CEO of Mobotix.

“Here you need an intelligent system which considers different light conditions. It is also a great advantage to combine video surveillance with intelligent motion detection to optimize recording capacity and minimize wasteful transfer over the data network. These challenges can be overcome with a distributed, fully digital system that solves the problems associated with legacy analog and highly centralized surveillance systems,” Dr. Ekerot added on the benefits of the company's solutions.

Moreover, video surveillance systems integrated into the bank security system and local police can eliminate false alarms with video verification and allow for faster response time in the event of an incident. “This means that the cost for addressing false alarms can be dramatically reduced as security personnel does not need to go onsite in order to understand the source of the alarm, as it can be done remotely,” said Mansson.

Intelligent IP solutions have allowed banks to be more effective in solving crimes and minimizing losses. “One example where the use of IP cameras have contributed to solving a crime is from Italy, where an ATM belonging to the Banca d'Alba branch office in Mocalieri was exposed to a severe gas attack that destroyed big parts of the branch office. However, the surveillance cameras from Axis placed both outdoors and indoors withstood the explosion very well. The perpetrators were later caught by the police and convicted with the help of the video footage,” described Mansson.

Analytics are also helping banks maintain trust with their customers. “Some banks do want analytics for the ATM lobbies because ATM transactions are big moneymakers. If the lobby becomes a gathering spot for vagrants, then customers will take their ATM transactions elsewhere,” said Mullins. Consequently, “a large bank in New York City is using analytics to alert them when people are lingering in the lobby. Then they send someone out to move the people out of the lobbies, or they can use audio via an alarm or voice message to notify the persons that the police have been called,” Mullins added on how banks are proactively deterring crime.

With millions of ATM transactions carried out all over the world on a daily basis, security cannot be an afterthought. Banks can guard themselves and their customers against criminal activities through the creation of secure environments for ATM users with the help of modern technology.

Better cameras can help to deter, apprehend, and prosecute criminals. They can also alert relevant authorities faster in case of a security breach. Also, efficiency in preventing and solving crimes would deter criminals from targeting these well-secured ATMs. Consequently, these ATMs will be able to get recurring business from bank customers because they trust these locations.

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