Wednesday, May 5, 2010

FBI Sting Catches ATM System Hacker

Via -

A North Carolina grocery worker is being held without bail in Houston on attempted computer hacking charges after inadvertently partnering with an undercover FBI agent in an alleged citywide ATM-reprogramming caper.

Thor Alexander Morris, 19, was arrested at a Houston flea market last month after trying a default administrative passcode on a Tranax Mini-Bank ATM there, according to the FBI. Morris, who was wearing a wig to disguise his appearance, allegedly hoped to reprogram the machine to think it was loaded with $1 bills instead of $20 bills. That would let him pull $8,000 in cash with $400 in withdrawals from a prepaid debit card.

Details of the federal case are laid out in a
criminal complaint (.pdf) filed in Houston in late April. Morris allegedly hoped to hit more than 30 Houston ATMs and clear at least $250,000. But he made the mistake of approaching a reformed Texas con man for help with the scheme, who helped the feds set up a sting operation.

Cash-machine–reprogramming scams were first noticed in the financial industry in 2005, and surfaced publicly in 2006 when a cyber thief was caught on video looting an ATM at a Virginia gas station. Threat Level later confirmed that default administrative passcodes for retail ATMs manufactured by Tranax and Triton were printed in owner’s manuals easily found online.

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