At the USENIX Security Symposium last week, researchers Keaton Mowery, Sarah Meiklejohn and Stefan Savage from the University of California at San Diego presented their paper “Heat of the Moment: Characterizing the Ef?cacy of Thermal Camera-Based Attacks.”
Inspired by previous research on safecracking by Micha? Zalewski, they thought it would be easier for a criminal to snoop on ATM PINs using a thermal (infrared) camera to detect residual heat from keypresses rather than current techniques using traditional video cameras.
Thermal imaging provides several advantages. Unlike with traditional cameras, visually masking the PIN pad does not defeat the attack, and the ability to automate PIN harvesting using computer software further simplifies the task.