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Most banks (and ATM manufacturers) would probably opt for a simple, out-of-the-box VPN; but I think that represents some risk for the ATM-owner. They make think the risk is acceptable; but I imagine the people making the decision probably aren't even aware of the issues...

There's no doubt a bit more than a simple VPN would be desirable. My last job was for a company that made smart cards. If every ATM had a smart card chip installed, and signed each transaction using the card, this would be a very secure way to handle this. It would require certificates to be set up for each machine, so a little bit of work would be involved in "issuing" the ATM. The chip itself would cost $1-5, plus the machine would need a smart card reader (I assume they're using off-the-shelf motherboards in these things, if it's proprietary their next board design could include a built in reader like the SIM card slot in your cell phone at a very low cost).

Banks actually use this exact system to secure transactions between branches and datacenters. I can't recally the name of the company, but we had customers that bought our cards to be used for their transaction security products they sold to banks. For small banks with low volumes of transactions a simple server with a reader, card, and their software package was all that was necessary. It takes a couple of seconds to sign something, but since an ATM is limited to one customer at a time it works well enough.

In general it seems to me that ATM theft and fraud must be very low, or mostly limited to hauling off the entire machine...the jokers that make them seem to barely consider security. The leading ATM maker is I believe Diebold and we've probably all read about their rediculous designs for voting machines which are probably not much different...
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