Not just the Russians: A biometric ATM in Korea
ATMs in Russia may soon be outfitted with intelligence services–style lie detection software, designed to help banks pick out consumer credit fraud—without bank employees actually having to go through the arduous business of talking to and evaluating potential cardholders.
In response to a survey of 3,000 British adults, a majority of which believe that public toilets out-filth everything else, the company BioCote–a producer of anti-bacterial coatings–decided to get to the bottom of the issue by comparing ATMs and toilets. Researchers scoured England, swabbing heavily-used ATM key pads as well as nearby public toilet seats. After letting the swabbed bacteria grow over night, they compared the cultures and discovered that both contained bacteria from the groups Bacillus and Pseudomonadaceae.
The Daily Mail quotes BioCote microbiologist Richard Hastings:
“We were surprised by our results because the ATM machines were shown to be heavily contaminated with bacteria; to the same level as nearby public toilets. In addition the bacteria we detected on ATMs were similar to those from the toilet, which are well known as causes of common human illnesses.”
But one should always consider the source: BioCote specializes in selling anti-bacterial products. How convenient, then, that they are able to find so much bacteria on ATMs. And the company’s finding has garnered at least one detractor. CBS News quotes William Shaffner, a preventative medicine specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center:
“Bacillus is trivial,” he tells CBS News. “It only causes infections in the most compromised people in hospitals. Pseudomonads is quite similar.” Schaffner says you could swab almost anything and find these two microscopic buggers. “We live in a microbial world,” he says. Whether found on telephones, ATMs, toilet seats, folded money, or counters in department stores, these types of environmental bacteria have never been conclusively demonstrated to transmit illness.
Although the research gives new life to the term “filthy rich,” you probably won’t see the ATM-equivalent of plastic toilet seat covers in the near future. Most harmful bacteria transmissions, after all, still happen via airborne or human-to-human contact. But all the same, after your next stop at the money-mouth machine, you might feel better if you wash your hands.
80beats: Did Your Morning Shower Spray You With Bacteria?
Science Not Fiction: Dirty, Dirty Spaceships
Science Not Fiction: Dreaming of Carnivorous Plants and Life-Saving Bacteria
DISCOVER: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Hygiene
Image: flickr / catatronic
Although money may not grow on trees, it can spew from an ATM–at least if you’re computer security expert Barnaby Jack. He demonstrated recently at a security conference in Las Vegas how to get an ATM to spit money for minutes on end. Jack purchased the ATMs online, and says the tools required to hack them cost less than $100, according to Technology Review:
“After studying four different companies’ models, he said, “every ATM I’ve looked at, I’ve found a ‘game over’ vulnerability that allowed me to get cash from the machine.” He’s even identified an Internet-based attack that requires no physical access.”
Researchers at Antarctica’s McMurdo Station may face annual average temperatures of minus .4 degrees Fahrenheit and drifting snow of depths around five feet–but at least they have easy access to cash. Since around 1998, Antarctica has had an operating ATM.
The blog NeedCoffeeDotCom interviewed a Wells Fargo representative about the challenges of keeping an Antarctic ATM working. According to a vice president in the ATM banking division, David Parker, there are actually two of the machines in the remote McMurdo Station, but one serves exclusively as a back-up that can be “cannibalized” for parts in case the other fails. The machine recycles the station’s limited cash supply, since–beyond chucking dollar bills at penguins–there aren’t many things to do with cash outside the snug walls of McMurdo.