Researchers from UCSD pointed thermal cameras towards plastic ATM PIN pads and metal ATM PIN pads to test how effective they were at stealing PIN numbers. The thermal cams didn’t work against metal pads but on plastic pads the success rate of detecting all the digits was 80 per cent after 10 seconds and 60 per cent after 45 seconds. If you think about your average ATM trip, that’s a pretty wide window and an embarrassingly high success rate for thieves to take advantage of.
Thermal cameras are better suited at pilfering PINs than video cameras because they work even when a person shields her hand. The person’s body temperature, the strength of the button presses and the length of the press all helped thermal cams figure out the person’s PIN and sequence. I think it’s time to start pressing random numbers at the ATM before criminals and thieves realise how awesome thermal cams can be for their line of work. [Usenix (PDF) via Naked Security via Slashdot]