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Identity Theft Attempt at Defcon

Hackers hacked hackers at the annual Defcon conference in Las Vegas this past weekend. Defcon is a conference for hackers of all breeds. There are good guys, bad guys, those who are somewhere in between, plus law enforcement and government agents. All kinds of inventive people with an intuition for technology decend on Las Vegas to learn, explore, and hack.

At this year’s Defcon, someone planted a real, rigged, malicious ATM right outside the security office of the Riviera Hotel and Casino. For some reason, the area outside the security office doesn’t have any security cameras, which made it an easy place to attempt a scam. Scams like this are common in Las Vegas, due to the city’s transient nature and frantic pace. Everyone is looking for a quick buck, and what better place to pull of an ATM scam than Vegas?

ATM skimming comes in two flavors. In the first scenario, a device called a “skimmer” is placed on the face of an operational ATM. When a card is swiped, the skimmer records the data on the card, and a hidden camera generally records the PIN. Usually, money is dispensed. In the second scenario, a used ATM is rigged to record data, and placed in a public area. These ATMs are only semi-operational, and do not dispense cash. This is the type of ATM that was found in Las Vegas.

A conference attendee uncovered the scam when he attempted to use the machine and recieved an error message. Upon further investigation, a computer was discovered where the security camera should have been. The computer was recording all the victims’ details. That’s when the alarm was sounded and the area became a crime scene.

You can protect yourself from these types of scams by paying attention to your statements. Refute unauthorized transactions within 60 days. Consider never using a debit card again, since credit cards are safer. When using an ATM, pay close attention to details, and look for anything that seems out of place. If your card gets stuck in the machine or you notice anything odd about the appearance of the machine, such as wires, double sided tape, error messages, a missing security camera, or the machine seems unusually old and run down, don’t use it. Don’t use just any ATM. Instead, look for ATMs in more secure locations. (Of course, just outside the security office isn’t exactly the middle of nowhere, so always be alert.) Use strong PINs, with both upper and lowercase letters, as well as numbers.

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