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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 14, 2007 • Issue 07:05:01

Deterring ATM ram raids

By Tracy Kitten

This story was originally published on ATMmarketplace.com, April. 2, 2007; reprinted with permission. 2007 NetWorld Alliance LLC. All rights reserved.

In March, police in Sydney, Australia, arrested a man in connection with a ram-raid case after he was busted with ink-stained bills. The ATM, part of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. (ANZ) network, was equipped with Fluiditi's (a subsidiary of NCR Corp.) ink-staining system.

The arrest marked the first time ink-marking technology had been used to link a suspect to an ATM raid in Australia, despite the fact that the technology has been around for several years. Phil Chant, Marketing and Communications Manager for NCR Australia, said the arrest signifies a turning point, since the attack on the ATM operated by ANZ _ the only Australian deployer to use ink-staining in its ATMs _ has shown that ink-staining can lead to arrests. "The number of ATM ram raids in Australia has rapidly increased in the last two years and is centered heavily in and around Sydney," Chant said.

"The problem became so bad that NSW [New South Wales] police set up a special task force to deal with ATM attacks.

"They reported that between August 2005 and October 2006 there were 139 attacks on ATMs in NSW _ 70 of these were in shopping centers, 23 at gas stations and 46 [at] 'other sites'; 102 of the 139 attacks were classed as ram raids." Ross Checkley, Vice President of Financial Solutions for NCR in the South Pacific, said he expects the ANZ arrest to give Fluiditi some steam in the market.

"When we staged the world's first live demonstration, 96% of our customers said they believed Fluiditi could be an effective deterrent against physical attacks on their networks," he said.

"I believe we have reached a tipping point in Australia, where ATM deployers are now being more open about security issues and actually using their heightened levels of security as a competitive advantage in regard to their customers' peace of mind."

A growing problem

Rob Evans, Director of Industry Marketing for Dayton, Ohio-based NCR, said the problem is not an isolated one. Ram raids, which involve brute force to physically remove ATMs from their locations, have been growing in established ATM markets such as the U.K., the United States and Australia for several years.

In recent months, however, the rate has spiked throughout the world. "Over [the] last 36 months the incidence of ram raiding has increased, and it's probably parallel to the growth of ATM placements because there are more opportunities," he said.

"It happens everywhere. It's not just the crazy Americans or the crazy Australians or the crazy Africans. Convenience installations seem to be more of the target, regardless of the part of the world where they're deployed."

In the U.K., Evans said, use of ink-staining and other ATM-crime deterrents, such as placing bollards around an ATM or using heavier ATM enclosures and safes, have generally received a warmer welcome.

In the U.K., ram raids are perceived to be a problem. In the United States, other ATM-related crimes trump ram-raid concerns, Evans said.

"In the U.S., I don't see tremendous interest in Fluiditi [ink staining] or heavier safes," he said. "In certain [U.S.] markets, where you see ram raids picking up, you see interest go in cycles, but it's never as overwhelming a theme as, say, card fraud.

"So counter measures and solutions shot at the prevention of ram raiding get moved to the bottom of the stack of stuff we have to do today _ because there are other things that need to be done first." When compared to other types of ATM-related crime in the United States, like card skimming, card cloning and empty-envelope deposits, ram raids are relatively insignificant, Evans said, so deployers aren't interested in investing high dollars to curb it. In the United States, the U.K. and Australia, the needs are different. And the use or lack of some technology is compounded in the United States, where the deployment of certain systems has been challenged by armored carriers.

Some carriers refuse to service ATMs equipped with ink-staining and smoke/fogging systems, citing conflicts with Occupational Safety and Health Administration codes. (Fluiditi, because it is mounted outside an ATM's cash cassettes, falls within the lines of acceptance. It is not carried or handled by cash-in-transit drivers.)

It's a reality that is frustrating to many in the industry, including Jerry Gregory, the Chief Development Officer for Richardson, Texas-based Cash Carriers USA. Gregory's company in 2006 began marketing SmokeCloak, a smoke/fogging system that activates when an ATM is moved or broken into, in the United States.

"Our problem with ram raids is that no one cares," Gregory said. "As long as insurance companies continue to eat the cost and have little if any requirements, then the problem will continue.

"Products like SmokeCloak would solve the problem, but the store or ATM owners have no incentive to spend the 100 bucks a month to protect the equipment and funds.

"To stop ram raids will require insurance intervention on placement of ATMs with mandatory security."

But that experience or view is not shared by everyone. Mike Adams, a partner with Waco, Texas-based Dash ATM LP, said he sees interest in ram-raid prevention increasing. Dash in January released its Smash and Grab tower, an ATM enclosure/sleeve the company says prevents ATMs from being removed.

The sleeve, which retails for less than $3,000, can be fitted for all models, Adams said, but it's being marketed specifically for Tranax's 1500 and 4000; Triton's RL5000, 8100 and 9100; and WRG's Genesis _ entry-level ATMs that retail for a price comparable to the cost of the sleeve.

Each of the enclosure's four bolts can withstand 12,000 pounds of force, Adams said. "The idea was to make something that can be fitted. It's more like a safe than a sleeve," he said. "The only way to get in is with a blow torch."

Dash has shipped 30 of the towers since the beginning of the year. In fact, Adams said, ram raids are topping ATM-security concerns among ISOs. "We're hearing more and more about ram raids. They're everywhere," he said. "For ISOs, they'll tell you this is a big problem.

"And with this product, they can put ATMs outside a building, on a pier, anywhere, so they don't need to worry about putting an ATM in a store and having a problem with the front of the store getting pulled out."

Other companies, like Ontario, Canada-based Arias Tech Ltd., are working to prevent ram raids and help convenience-store operators and other retailers capture and deter raiders with surveillance.

Alfredo Arias, the company's Marketing Director, said Arias is honing its efforts on North America, primarily Canada. And the company's FlashFog division, which markets fogging systems for ATMs, has been marketing its products in South America for the last eight years.

FlashFog's system, once activated, cuts visibility to one inch, within a 15-foot radius. The system, which uses a security strobe light to reflect the fog, is designed to thwart on-site ATM break-ins, Arias said. (FlashFog's fog system also uses a pharmaceutical-grade fog rather than a food grade, which, Arias said, meets OSHA codes/standards.)

Yet Arias agrees with Evans that market differences play a role in the types of ram-raid prevention deployers are willing to invest in.

"In South America the increased man-stopping power of the technology really gets tested because the criminal element is much more brazen and sophisticated," Arias said. "In North America we see brute-force attacks, sometimes with forklifts; in South America they are going in with plasma cutters and predrawn templates for each ATM model."

Arias said criminals in South America, particularly Columbia and Brazil, have hammered ATM break-ins down to a science. "The average ATM hit in Colombia and Brazil is down to three minutes, without causing the spectacular noise from crashing cars, etc., and [it's being done] in a much more surgical [way]," he said.

Bigger machines

Concerns related to fog and inking systems, as well as the somewhat unreliable nature of global-positioning systems, which can be hard to track when installed inside an ATM's safe, are leading more deployers to focus on bigger and heavier machines, NCR's Evans said. "In the European space and in Canada, deploying bigger, heavy, more robust safes and enclosures has become popular," he said, "because it's going to be harder to get the ATM out.

"And, if you do get it out, once it's out, it's not going to be as easy to break into the safe. You're going to deter more with a heavier machine. It makes the bad guy's life a lot harder. And if it's harder, the bad guys will move on to something else."

Richard Gould, Chief Executive of Sydney-based Lockit Systems Australia Pty., said an ATM that is difficult to remove will likely be ignored by would-be ATM attackers. "An ATM that can't be removed is a safe ATM," he said.

Gould earlier this year introduced his ATM Ram Guard plinth, which redirects the force of an attack away from the ATM and prevents it from being removed.

"The simplicity of the design makes it very cost-effective and much more straightforward to install," Gould said. Lockit is working on licensing agreements for the U.K. and soon expects to introduce the product to the United States. end of article

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