Cash out in the middle of nowhere: ATMs with poor internet connections are now protected from cyberattacks
April 2020 by Kaspersky
Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security provides advanced protection for ATMs and PoS (point of sale) systems, as well as other Windows-based embedded devices. Thanks to the release of a new version, the solution now can be remotely managed and updated without hassle on devices located in areas with a 2G internet connection. This enables the solution to effectively protect ATMs, payment terminals and other similar appliances in remote areas without affecting their productivity and service availability. In addition, Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security has been upgraded with a new Network Threat Protection component which prevents attacks on a network layer.
From 2017 to 2019, the number of unique Kaspersky protected devices that encountered ATM/POS malware grew by nearly 2.5 times, according to statistics from Kaspersky Security Network. This suggests that ATMs, PoS and other similar systems are a tempting target for cybercriminals. Nonetheless, their protection can be a challenging task for devices residing in remote locations where a wireless modem is the only option for internet connection, but the area has poor cellular coverage or is not covered by modern wireless standards (such as 3G and above).
Weak communication channels may lead to a conflict between traffic flows responsible for the execution of transactions, banking software updates and management tasks, including the delivery of updates. When a channel is overloaded with traffic between the security solution and its management server, it leads to unstable operation or even a partial loss of control over the device. In addition, in smaller communities there are only a few cash machines, or just one, available to citizens. If the community is remote enough, a scenario where an ATM goes down because of an overload in traffic or malicious actions would mean serious trouble. For instance, citizens would be left unable to withdraw cash from their accounts until the issue is fixed.
That’s why Kaspersky has optimized the volume of traffic shared by Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security to reduce the payload. Typically, the server periodically sends security policies to the ATM, which returns the applied settings. It allows for monitoring to show that the policies were not changed. With the updated Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security, the ATM would not send the whole of the acting policies back to the server, thus reducing the intensity of the data exchange. However, it doesn’t affect control over the device, as the ability to change these policies on the cash machine is strictly regulated by the security solution.
Thanks to this, and other data exchange optimisations, the solution ensures that functions run smoothly even in regions where only a low speed internet connection, such as that provided by the 2G standard, is available. In fact, its technical requirements for speed starts from 56 kbp/s.
“Some people prefer to pay with cash, and in some places, there is just no other option. This means people’s daily lives depend on access to physical currency. So, banks need to provide their customers with means for withdrawing money. Our clients from the banking industry, as they take care of this need, find themselves facing the issue of poor internet connectivity in remote areas. This can affect the quality of their service, which is supposed to be delivered both conveniently and securely. In order to help them solve this problem, we have included low bandwidth tolerance to the list of optimisations we made in the new version of Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security – ,” commented Oleg Gorobets, Senior B2B Product Marketing Manager at Kaspersky.
Mitigating risks of network attacks
Recently introduced Network Threat Protection also improves ATM and PoS security posture against attacks aimed to break into an operating system. This component monitors both inbound and outbound traffic to detect suspicious network activity and blocks the communication between the device and the source of malicious network activity.
In particular, Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security now can detect and block the following activity:
• Port scanning. At the preparation stage, cybercriminals may search for open ports, services running on them and vulnerabilities of these services. The gained information allows malefactors to choose an effective attack vector.
• Bruteforce. Sometimes, there is an active Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) on an ATM or PoS, and cyber-attackers can use this for gaining access to the device by trying to “guess” the right password through submitting multiple character combinations to the service.
• Denial of Service and network exploits. By sending large amount of data or data in a format that cannot be handled by an application, a cybercriminal can stop the work of an embedded device (Denial of Service) – or abuse an unpatched vulnerability to initiate an infection.