A Romanian hacker serving five years in prison for working with a criminal gang that planted ATM skimmers and stole card information designed a new device aimed at preventing skimmers from ripping off ATMs – all from the comfort of his cell.
Valentin Boanta, 33, serving five years in a Romanian prison for supplying the skimmers he made himself to the gang, is now using his skills for the good guys as he designed the Secure Revolving System (SRS).
Outwardly it is a trapezoidal metallic box around 6 inches long with the card slot in the middle. Simply put, the SRS goes over the ATM’s card slot or incorporates into new ATM models, and requires cards to insert into the device longer side first. It then rotates the card and pushes it into the slot, and performs all these steps in reverse when the card is ready to come back to the proper user.
Boanta contacted Bucharest-based firm MB Telecom and they took a flyer on him and is helping to develop and patent the device, which just won an award at this year’s edition of the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva. He was not able to collect the award in person.
“Crime was like a drug for me. After I was caught, I was happy I escaped from this adrenaline addiction,” Boanta said in a Reuters report. “So that the other part, in which I started to develop security solutions, started to emerge.”
MB Telecom president Mircea Tudor, who’s also had a hand in perfecting the device, said they expect to hire Baonta after he gets out of prison in four and a half years.
“All ATMs have ageing designs so they are prone to vulnerability, they are a very weak side of the banking industry,” Baonta said. “Every ATM can be penetrated through a skimming crime. My security solution, SRS, makes an ATM unbreachable.”
Romanian hackers stole about $1 billion from U.S. accounts in 2012, according to the U.S. embassy in Bucharest. A report by Verizon said Romania was the world’s second-biggest hacking center after China. The FBI has even set up an office in Romania and helped to train specialist police agents.