Pepper spray-armed ATM misfires

Graham Cluley

According to media reports, a bank in Cape Town, South Africa, has equipped its cash machines with pepper spray to deter criminals from tampering and stealing money.

Absa Bank has installed the disorientating pepper spray in 11 of its ATMs, after several cash machines were blown up by thieves last year. If a camera on the ATM determines that the machine is being tampered with (for instance, to install a skimming device or explosives), then the pepper spray is released.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if the technology is fool-proof. During a routine maintenance operation this weekend at an ATM in Fish Hoek, the pepper spray was released by accident – meaning three people had to receive treatment.

Ouch! A false positive perhaps?

Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised by this latest development in ATM security. After all, it’s also…

Read more in my article on the Naked Security website.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.