Jailed hacker designs device to thwart ATM card skimming

A Romanian hacker that has been jailed for his involvement with a criminal gang that planted ATM skimmers and stole card information has designed a new device aimed at preventing the very same type of theft.

The 33-year-old Valentin Boanta, who’s doing a five-year stretch in a Romanian prison for supplying the skimmers he made himself to the gang, has used his skills and knowledge (he is, after all, a former industrial design student) to design the Secure Revolving System (SRS).

The SRS is meant to be installed over the ATM’s card slot or incorporated into new ATM models, and requires cards to be inserted into the device longer side first. It then rotates the card and pushes her into the slot, and performs all these steps in reverse when the card is pushed out to be delivered back to its owner.

Reuters reports that Boanta has contacted Bucharest-based firm MB Telecom with the idea, and they took him up on the offer of developing and patenting the device, which recently won an award at this year’s edition of the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva.

He claims that his arrest and trial were a turning point, and he decided to work for the “good side”.

“Crime was like a drug for me. After I was caught, I was happy I escaped from this adrenaline addiction. So that the other part, in which I started to develop security solutions, started to emerge,” he says.

MB Telecom president Mircea Tudor, who’s also had a hand in perfecting the device, says that Baonta should be recognized for taking part in improving Romania’s image abroad and that they expect to hire him after he gets out of prison four and a half years from now.

The SRS is not yet available for sale, and it’s still unknown how much it will cost.

It does seem like a simple and clever solution to the ATM card skimming problem, but who knows? Maybe some criminally-minded designers will find a way around it.

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