Reasons Why Antivirus Can No Longer Protect ATMs

Since the existence of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) five decades ago, banks and their customers have enjoyed the flexibility it brings. From this time until 2014, ATMs were closed systems and were not easily prone to attacks as they are today.

Due to the dynamics occurring in business, enhanced and available operating systems, like Windows XP and some antivirus solutions, were employed to protect ATMs. However, in 2014, Microsoft halted the support of Windows XP, thereby placing ATMs in positions vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The lack of operating system updates made hackers easily access banks’ networks undetected. However, with the help of ATM security services, your ATMs can be protected from viruses. Today we’ll outline some basic reasons why antivirus can no longer protect ATMs.

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There is a specific directory of signatures and algorithms antivirus heavily depend on for detecting possible threats. However, with the rise in technology development and enhanced cyber attacks, the signature directory required for antivirus applications is expanding in scope.

Greater bandwidth and sophistication are needed from these already crunched ATM networks. Because they could not meet up with the frequent updates in tech systems, ATMs were constantly vulnerable to attacks. This backward approach is considered one of the main reasons antivirus was ineffective against Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and modern malware.

In addition to these challenges, purchasing commercial antivirus allows cybercriminals to test their malware prowess. Once they discover it can be easily breached, they deploy their virus into the bank’s environment, which ultimately increases the chances of a successful cyber attack.

Below are five primary reasons why antiviruses fail to protect ATMs:

1.  Static Signature

Conventional antivirus solutions rely more on static signatures to pinpoint malware. However, the advancement in various cyber processes indicates that malware is not static. For instance, morphing malware such as metamorphic, polymorphic, and oligomorphic malware can disguise, encrypt or clone itself to escape a virus signature match.

With these developments in malware threats, heavy dependence on static signatures is an outdated solution and can’t safeguard ATMs anymore.

2.  Software Patching

Software patching is one of the reactive approaches banks and other organizations use to prevent virus attacks. When a vulnerability is discovered and reported, the embedded antivirus OEM will create a fix sent as a patch.

The problem with this is that the time taken to create a patch, test it, and eventually deploy it can last months or years. It is no longer practical for enterprises to utilize this approach when faced with immediate threats.

3.  Real-Time Detection

Some deployed antivirus solutions or programs strictly monitor the computer or network systems to locate any malicious activity in real time. These activities include computer viruses, adware, spyware, and other cyber threats. However, the antivirus program will fail unless these issues have been diagnosed and defined. A good example of such is zero-day attacks.

4.  Heuristic Signature

A heuristic signature is an effective form of antivirus that firms can use to protect their ATMs. With the Heuristic program, a single inclusive signature for a group of viruses that contains non-contiguous code is formed. These signatures are padded on a wildcard character, enabling the scanner to detect viruses even when clouded with irrelevant codes.

However, the reason why this approach became ineffective can be linked to the smart tactics of cyber criminals. A crooked and encrypted malware cab evades most heuristic scans.

5.  Conclusive Detection and Response

Most antivirus solutions or programs function at a level of behavioral detection. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Cloud-Based file detonation used in identifying threats act in a detection and response process. The bane behind this approach is that it relies greatly on human interaction for mitigation/response.

Bottom Line

Traditional antivirus solutions are no longer a practical solution for safeguarding ATMs. The pointers in this article align with the fact that the deployed malware has been upgraded to evade the defense mechanism programmed in most antivirus.

Modern enterprises expect to employ efficient ATM security services to tackle viruses and protect their ATM structures. Banks should also employ a proactive security approach to threats to secure ATMs from modern APTs and malware.