By Richard Menta 11/16/06
The iPod makes a nice music player, but it is also good at other things like storing large quantities of information. In this case thousands of personal bank files containing PIN numbers, passwords etc.
A savvy hacker named Maxwell Parsons was jailed in the UK for carrying out a clever scam where he secretly attached MP3 players to the back of freestanding ATMs. The portable players tapped into the telephone lines of these ATMs - usually located in bars and bowling alleys - intercepting and recording the information from patrons cards as well as the info they typed into the cash machine display.
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After harvesting the signals used by the ATM to communicate with the banks, Parsons took the players home and used his PC to translate the various tones with specialized software. This allowed Parsons to clone new ATM and credit cards. Parsons and his accomplices then used the phony cards to buy around £200,000 worth of goods.
Parsons and his cohorts were finally caught, but not by information security professionals. Parsons was in a car that carried out an illegal U-turn in London. When police stopped the car they found the cloned cards. That led to the search of his home, which uncovered the equipment he used to commit the crimes, including 26 phony bank cards.
Parsons, who was arrested last March, copped a plea and will now spend 32 months in prison. Meanwhile, the British banking industry was already making changes to prevent such an attack from happening again. "The method used by Parsons was sophisticated, but the banking industry and ATM owners have now taken action to prevent this happening in the future", said Inspector Alan Shepherd of the Manchester Police. "Also the introduction of chip and pin has dramatically reduced fraud from counterfeit cards."
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