ATMs That Attack The Attacker Coming Soon

Securing Automated Teller Machines (ATM) have always been a difficult and time–consuming job. However, researchers at ETH University in Zurich have come up with an interesting coating that could become a 24×7 deterrent for ATM bandits.

ATMs have always been fortified with highly intricate and complex machinery that prevents even the toughest of criminals from getting anywhere near the money stored within, though sometimes internal errors do happen. However, despite all the measures and even constant CCTV surveillance, burglars or even drunk miscreants have always tried their luck getting at the relatively huge stack of bills housed within the ATM. Though multiple attempts have resulted in failures, the ATMs have suffered a lot of damages that are costly to repair. To deter such hooligans, researchers have come up with a coating that can spray the criminal with hot foam.

There are systems that exist and are deployed that work in similar manner, but they are mechanical and rely on a motor and electricity to spray hot–pepper on the ATMs assailants. Wendelin Jan Stark, a professor at ETH’s department of chemistry and applied biosciences, pointed out their weakness. “A small motor is set in motion when triggered by a signal from a sensor. This requires electricity, is prone to malfunctions and is expensive,” he said.

The primary objective of this technique is to deploy an always–on, always ready solution that isn’t dependent on any system to help the solution work. In the words of the professor, “The objective of his research group is to replace complicated control systems with cleverly designed materials.” reported ETH Zurich.

The two layered plastic sheet producing a strong reaction when the two chemicals mix

The researchers at ETH University in Zurich have essentially developed a special film that triggers an intense reaction when destroyed. The team has developed a self-defending surface composed of several sandwich-like layers of plastic. If the surface is damaged, hot foam is sprayed in the face of the attacker.

The mechanism is fairly simple. A honeycomb structure is prepared using plastic sheets and they are joint to form a sandwich like layered coating. The two plastic sheets are separated with a layer of clear lacquer. The honeycombed voids are filled hydrogen peroxide and manganese dioxide separately. When the assailant attacks the ATMs, the honeycomb structure is ruptured on impact, mixing the two chemicals and a strong reaction is triggered.

The tampered ATM spews out tainted notes because the coating also has a dye

The reaction produces water vapor, oxygen and heat. The resulting high pressured steam has a surface temperature of 80oC. As an additionally layer of protection, the team has added a special dye that renders the notes useless in case the miscreants do manage to get to the currency vault inside the ATM machine. Going a step further, the team has even put in a specially encoded DNA which can help investigators trace the path of the stolen currency.

Attacks on ATMS have grown in alarming numbers in the recent past. Such techniques could surely help deter the potential thieves. But will the ATM now feature a warning that the premises is protected by such a system?

[Images via ETH Zurich and Malaysian Times]