Posts Tagged ‘Security’

ATMs - those amazing telling machines

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

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Automated Teller Machines or ATMs have changed the way people do banking. Before the arrival of ATMs people had to wait for the bank to open, and stand in long queues to withdraw their own money, or just to know the balance on their account. Now ATMs are everywhere, in shopping malls, hospitals, offices and chances are that one is in your neighbourhood as well. Statistics have revealed that as of August 2006, there are over 1.5 million of these smart systems in operation.

Although the primary use of ATMs is for dispensing cash, these intelligent machines can be used for multiple purposes apart from bank-related functions. Since ATMs have a user interface at their disposal, they have been targeted by banks as a sales device, for displaying targeted advertising. Banks have recognized the huge potential for advertising of their own as well as third-party products and services on ATMs. In some countries ATMs are also used for purchasing commodities such as postage stamps, lottery tickets, train tickets, concert tickets etc.

ATMs as other technological devices have also been targeted by criminals to gain access to the cash lying inside these dispensers. Although ATMs are considered to be very secure, they have been subject to criminal attacks, with thieves attempting to get away with the entire ATM. Since ATMs are designed and constructed to be physically invulnerable, thieves resort to using construction machinery to demolish or uproot an entire ATM and steal any cash within. Criminals have also used explosives to blast open the ATM and get into its cash vault.

ATMs are quite secure for transactions, using advanced encryption techniques to encrypt sensitive information such as pin numbers, so that they cannot be sniffed across the network. To overcome this limitation, criminals have resorted to placing fake keypads on the ATM terminals to record the card number and pin. These are then used to gain access to an unsuspecting user’s accounts to withdraw cash or transfer money. High tech criminals also resort to a technique involving the installation of a magnetic card reader and a wireless surveillance camera to observe the user’s pin, and later use a fake card to dispense cash from the ATM.

Banks have resorted to various means to get around this of which the most successful have been the use of biometrics, where a user is identified using either one or a combination of his physical traits. Popular biometric techniques involve scanning of the iris or matching the fingerprints of the user with the ones stored in the bank’s database.  Other security techniques put in place by banks involve the development of intelligent sensors that detect the presence of foreign objects and trigger an alarm. Banks have claimed a 99% success rate, using these techniques.

In spite of a few shortcomings, ATMs continue to be a huge success and have proved to be highly popular thus making them a must for banks. However the future of ATMs remains uncertain. Although, statistics indicate that the numbers of ATMs are steadily on the rise and continue to make their presence felt at gasoline stations and shopping outlets, the advent of a cashless society and home banking can pose a serious threat to these marvellous machines. They also face fierce competition from an increasing rise of point-of-sale systems and smart cards.

Having celebrated their 40th birthday recently, these amazing machines could possibly be made extinct by paperless money in times to come.

Can you text me 1000 Dollars please?

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

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Ever since currency evolved, humans have used it to lend to loved ones or friends and families, or make payments. In the earlier days, the only form of lending money used to be meeting the person and handing it over personally, over a cup of tea. As technologies evolved, and people became more and more busy there was a need for money to be transferred or lent easily. Along came cheques, and it was now easy to write a cheque and send it across.

Cheques were convenient to use, but the whole process was slow and time consuming. Banks later introduced Wire Transfers, which were blazingly fast to transfer money. Wire transfers, however required the person to visit the bank and order the bank to transfer money. Then came the Internet , and it was now possible for the sender himself to log on to his bank account and initiate a transfer to the party he wished to send. With the advent of mobile technologies, we were ushered into a wireless age.

Mobile phones have penetrated into every household. In fact studies have revealed that although 5 babies are born every second around the world, 30 new mobile phones are being subscribed to every day. Evolution of mobile phone technologies has meant that it is now possible to send money to your loved ones, or make a payment to that provider located on the other part of the globe, just by pressing a button on your cell phone.

With a lot of people travelling and moving from their homes in search of employment, money transfer has become a lucrative market for mobile phone companies as millions of people send money across. Mobile money transfer has changed lives in various countries. In Kenya, when it was introduced as M-pesa, the technology provided cut – throat completion to existing money transfer agencies, notably the government-owned Postal Corporation, a market leader with a massive network of agencies.

The technology has been a boon to most people living in rural areas, who have to rely financially on relatives in the cities. The mobile transfer technology has replaced the much slower postal money orders, and people in urgent need of financial help are being immensely benefitted by it. A similar technology was introduced in the developing market of Afghanistan, where it was particularly relevant since the large majority of population does not have access to traditional banking services.

Even in developed countries like the US and UK, it is estimated that more than $10bn a year is sent back to countries by migrant workers. Based on World Bank estimates, reducing remittance commission charges by 2-5% could increase the flow of remittances by 50-70%. Mobile phone companies are hence, being increasingly attracted to this lucrative market.

Money transfers suffer the risk of being prone to scams, and wire transfers also suffered from money being send by wire to an unknown person. Apparently, the mobile money transfer service is said to be secure, in the sense that it uses security pin codes, for the transaction. So, the next time you need to make a payment, or transfer a 1000 dollars to your loved ones, why not text it?