Hebo the Money Machine computer

An automated teller machine or automatic teller machine (ATM, American, British, Australian, Malaysian, South African English, Singaporean, Indian, Maldivian, Hiberno, Philippine and Sri Lankan English), also known as an automated banking machine (ABM, Canadian English), cash machine, cashpoint, cashline, minibank, bankomat or colloquially hole in the wall  is an electronic telecommunications device that enables the customers of a financial institution to perform financial transactions, particularly cash withdrawal, without the need for a human cashier, clerk or bank teller.


A block diagram of an ATM, An ATM is typically made up of the following devices:
  • CPU (to control the user interface and transaction devices)
  • Magnetic or chip card reader (to identify the customer)
  • PIN pad EEP4 (similar in layout to a touch tone or calculator keypad), manufactured as part of a secure enclosure
  • Secure cryptoprocessor, generally within a secure enclosure
  • Display (used by the customer for performing the transaction)
  • Function key buttons (usually close to the display) or a touchscreen (used to select the various aspects of the transaction)
  • Record printer (to provide the customer with a record of the transaction)
  • Vault (to store the parts of the machinery requiring restricted access)
  • Housing (for aesthetics and to attach signage to)
  • Sensors and indicators

Due to heavier computing demands and the falling price of personal computer–like architectures, ATMs have moved away from custom hardware architectures using microcontrollers or application-specific integrated circuits and have adopted the hardware architecture of a personal computer, such as USB connections for peripherals, Ethernet and IP communications, and use personal computer operating systems.

Business owners often lease ATM terminals from ATM service providers, however based on the economies of scale, the price of equipment has dropped to the point where many business owners are simply paying for ATMs using a credit card.New ADA voice and text-to-speech guidelines imposed in 2010, but required by March 2012 have forced many ATM owners to either upgrade non-compliant machines or dispose them if they are not up-gradable, and purchase new compliant equipment. This has created an avenue for hackers and thieves to obtain ATM hardware at junkyards from improperly disposed decommissioned ATMs.Two Loomis employees refilling an ATM at the Downtown Seattle REI. The vault of an ATM is within the footprint of the device itself and is where items of value are kept. Scrip cash dispensers do not incorporate a vault.

Mechanisms found inside the vault may include:

  • Dispensing mechanism (to provide cash or other items of value)
  • Deposit mechanism including a check processing module and bulk note acceptor (to allow the customer to make deposits)
  • Security sensors (magnetic, thermal, seismic, gas)
  • Locks (to ensure controlled access to the contents of the vault)
  • Journaling systems; many are electronic (a sealed flash memory device based on in-house standards) or a solid-state device (an actual printer) which accrues all records of activity including access timestamps, number of notes dispensed, etc. This is considered sensitive data and is secured in similar fashion to the cash as it is a similar liability.

ATM vaults are supplied by manufacturers in several grades. Factors influencing vault grade selection include cost, weight, regulatory requirements, ATM type, operator risk avoidance practices and internal volume requirements. Industry standard vault configurations include Underwriters Laboratories UL-291 “Business Hours” and Level 1 Safes, RAL TL-30 derivatives, and CEN EN 1143-1 – CEN III and CEN IV.ATM manufacturers recommend that an ATM vault be attached to the floor to prevent theft, though there is a record of a theft conducted by tunnelling into an ATM floor.


With the migration to commodity Personal Computer hardware, standard commercial “off-the-shelf” operating systems, and programming environments can be used inside of ATMs. Typical platforms previously used in ATM development include RMX or OS/2.

A Wincor Nixdorf ATM running Windows 2000.Today the vast majority of ATMs worldwide use a Microsoft Windows operating system, primarily Windows XP Professionalor Windows XP Embedded.[citation needed][needs update] A small number of deployments may still be running older versions of Windows OS such as Windows NT, Windows CE, or Windows 2000.

There is a computer industry security view that general public desktop operating systems(os) have greater risks as operating systems for cash dispensing machines than other types of operating systems like (secure) real-time operating systems(RTOS). RISKS Digest has many articles about cash machine operating system vulnerabilities.

Linux is also finding some reception in the ATM marketplace. An example of this is Banrisul, the largest bank in the south ofBrazil, which has replaced the MS-DOS operating systems in its ATMs with Linux. Banco do Brasil is also migrating ATMs to Linux. Indian-based Vortex Engineering is manufacturing ATMs which operate only with Linux. Common application layer transaction protocols, such as Diebold 91x (911 or 912) and NCR NDC or NDC+ provide emulation of older generations of hardware on newer platforms with incremental extensions made over time to address new capabilities, although companies like NCR continuously improve these protocols issuing newer versions (e.g. NCR’s AANDC v3.x.y, where x.y are subversions). Most major ATM manufacturers provide software packages that implement these protocols. Newer protocols such as IFX have yet to find wide acceptance by transaction processors.

With the move to a more standardised software base, financial institutions have been increasingly interested in the ability to pick and choose the application programs that drive their equipment. WOSA/XFS, now known as CEN XFS (or simply XFS), provides a common API for accessing and manipulating the various devices of an ATM. J/XFS is a Java implementation of the CEN XFS API.

While the perceived benefit of XFS is similar to the Java’s “Write once, run anywhere” mantra, often different ATM hardware vendors have different interpretations of the XFS standard. The result of these differences in interpretation means that ATM applications typically use a middleware to even out the differences between various platforms.

With the onset of Windows operating systems and XFS on ATM’s, the software applications have the ability to become more intelligent. This has created a new breed of ATM applications commonly referred to as programmable applications. These types of applications allows for an entirely new host of applications in which the ATM terminal can do more than only communicate with the ATM switch. It is now empowered to connected to other content servers and video banking systems.

Notable ATM software that operates on XFS platforms include Triton PRISM, Diebold Agilis EmPower, NCR APTRA Edge, Absolute Systems Absolute INTERACT,KAL Kalignite Software Platform, Phoenix Interactive VISTAatm, Wincor Nixdorf ProTopas, Euronet EFTS and Intertech inter-ATM.With the move of ATMs to industry-standard computing environments, concern has risen about the integrity of the ATM’s software stack.


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