Centre for Internet & Society

SBI has denied there was any compromise in its ATMs.

The blog post by Soumya Chatterjee was published by Newsminute on May 16, 2017. Udbhav Tiwari was quoted.

In the wake of the onslaught by ransomware WannaCry across the globe, the Reserve Bank of India has denied that it has asked banks in the country to shut down ATMs despite multiple conflicting reports on the same.

Speaking to The News Minute, the central bank’s spokesperson clarified, “The RBI has not passed any circulars to banks on the issue. All circulars sent to banks by the RBI is on the official website if it’s not on the website that means there is no such circular.”

The State Bank of India, the largest consumer bank of India also denied any compromise in its ATMs.

“All our systems are updated as required. Some of those, we do it daily. There are two types of updates, one is at the server level and one at the machine level. Generally, server level updates are done on a daily basis because patches are released and these are managed centrally in addition to local firewalls. The ATM machines are updated typically once in 15 days that is when the maintenance engineers visit the sites, they carry the latest software patch with them. So, everything is updated, there is no problem regarding this. We have additional surveillance but none of the ATM networks in the world has been impacted," Mrityunjoy Mahapatra, CIO of SBI told TNM.

However, a cyber security expert working with the Centre for Internet and Society, Udbhav Tiwari working on vulnerabilities such as these, said as most ATMs in the country especially of the public-sector banks run on outdated operating systems, or are not updated regularly, they can be easily compromised.

“This particular vulnerability was exposed by the WikiLeaks in March saying that the US' NSA was using this vulnerability in Windows operating systems to target individuals. Following this, Microsoft had sent patches in its update in March itself to counter this particular form of threats,” Udhav told TNM.

Udhav said WannaCry is one of the viruses which exploits this vulnerability adding,"No operating system is completely secure be it Windows, Mac or Linux or others, but there are certain OSs that are more susceptible to such attacks due to their popular usage and subsequent research carried on them. Once such attacks come out in the public domain and they usually get patched by the maintainers of the OS."

“In my personal experience, I have come across that most of the ATMs run on customised versions/ embeds of Windows XP or better Windows 7 which came out in 2001 and 2009 respectively. The support period for XP has already lapsed which means that it is more susceptible to malicious attacks than patched versions of other OSs,” Udhav said.

"However, Microsoft made an exception for this current threat and issued patches just for this,” added Udhav, noting if the patches were not installed they remain open to the WannaCry threat.

He also says that as there is no central repository to know what operating system many ATMs run, it would be hard to get the number of machines which are prone to this particular attack.

The cyber security expert draws parallels with the data security breaches last September and October, where a malware attack forced Indian banks to replace or request users to change the security codes of 3.2 million debit cards.

Udhav explained, “The malware had propagated in a very similar manner, they propagated via the internal networks of the bank because of a vulnerability of the ATM machines and then started recording details stored in the magnetic strips of the card."

Apart from invading some systems in departments of some state government in India, WannaCry has penetrated high profile systems across the globe including UK’s health services, Germany’s railway.
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