May 20 - A Romanian hacker serving a prison term for manipulating automated teller machines (ATMs) says he has invented a device that can make the world's cash dispensers impregnable even to tech-savvy criminals. Jim Drury reports.
Romanian convict Valentin Boanta is the classic poacher-turned-gamekeeper. From his prison cell in Vaslui, the 33-year-old has invented an anti-fraud device to make ATMs impregnable, even to the most tech-savvy criminals. While on trial for supplying a criminal gang with gadgets to conceal ATM skimmers, used to steal account data, Boanta devised the 'Secure Revolving System-SRS', which can be installed in any ATM. SOUNDBITE (Romanian) CONVICTED HACKER, VALENTIN BOANTA, SAYING: "Every ATM can be penetrated through a skimming crime. We are not talking about vandalism here. I think that my security solution, SRS, makes an ATM unbreachable." SRS is a 15 centimetre long metallic box with a slot. The bank card is inserted longer side first before it's automatically rotated to prevent skimmers from locking on to the magnetic data strip. The device's development has been funded by Romanian technology firm MB Telecom who hope to market it soon. And Boanta hopes to be a part of it...eventually. He is just six months into a five year sentence, but co-inventor, MB Telecom president Mircea Tudor, has promised him a job upon release. SOUNDBITE (Romanian) SRS CO-INVENTOR AND MB TELECOM PRESIDENT MIRCEA TUDOR MB, SAYING: "He fully deserves such recognition, he's taking part in improving Romania's image and he'll surely join our team when released" Skimmers are designed to look like an intergral part of the ATM. They're often realistic-looking card readers placed over the factory-installed card reader. When customers insert their ATM card, their account information is stolen and stored or sent wirelessly to a criminal's computer nearby. Romania is reportedly the world's second-biggest hacking centre after China. Boanta wants to help change that statistic. SOUNDBITE (Romanian) CONVICTED HACKER, VALENTIN BOANTA, SAYING: "When I got caught I became happy and felt relieved. Crime was like a drug for me. After I was caught, I was happy I escaped from this crime addiction, this adrenaline addiction. So that the other part, in which I started to develop security solutions, started to emerge." For now, his life consists of a strict routine. UPSOT: JAIL DOOR BEING CLOSED But having won an award at Geneva's International Exhibition of Inventions, and with a job waiting outside, Valentin Boanta is banking that ATM's will soon be more secure and his life of crime over.