It has been 10 years since the discovery of Skimer, first malware specifically designed to attack automated teller machines (ATMs). At the time, the learning curve for understanding its functionality was rather steep and analysis required specific knowledge of a manufacturer’s ATM API functions and parameters, which were not publicly documented.

Before the discovery of Skimer, anti-malware researchers’ considered ATMs secure machines containing proprietary hardware, running non-standard operating systems, and implementing a number of advanced protection techniques designed to prevent attacks using malicious code. Researchers eventually discovered that the most popular ATM manufacturers use a standard Windows operating system and add on some auxiliary devices, such as a safe and card reader.

Over time, actors behind some of the newer ATM malware families such as GreenDispenser and Tyupkin realized that there is a generic Windows extension for Financial Services API (CEN/XFS) that can be used to make malware that runs independent of the underlying hardware platform, as long as the ATM manufacturer supports the framework. This malware can trick the machines into dispensing cash, regardless of whether the attacker has a legitimate bank card.

Over time, ATM malware has evolved to include a number of different families and different actors behind them, ranging from criminal groups to actors affiliated with nation states. The significance of ATM malware stems from the fact that it can bring significant financial benefits to attackers and as a consequence cause a significant damage to targeted banks, financial institutions and end users.

Now that this type of malware has been around for more than 10 years, we wanted to round up the specific families we’ve seen during that time and attempt to find out if the different families share any code.



Talos Group

Talos Security Intelligence & Research Group