From Scammer To Savior, It’s All In The Swipe

What's Next In Payments®
5:39 PM EDT May 22nd, 2013

It’s a story of ATMs and redemption, but not in the way you might expect.

Valentin Boanta will spend the next four-and-a-half years of his life in a Romanian prison. He’s already spent the past six months there, serving a sentence for helping organized crime gangs in his country conceal ATM skimmers in 2009.

But according to Reuters, Boanta is banking on more than time to heal the wounds he’s created: he’s fighting to prevent the very same crime he used to commit from ever happening again.

A former industrial design student, Boanta is developing a system he calls the “Secure Revolving System,” or SRS for short, that will render the traditional way that many would-be hacker skim ATMs obsolete.

Described physically as a “trapezoidal metallic box around 6 inches long with a card slot in the middle,” Reuters explains that cards are inserted longer-side-first into the device, then rotated to prevent a lock on the magnetic data strip. When the card gives a user back his or her hard, it does so with a reverse rotation.

“All ATMs have ageing designs so they are prone to vulnerability, they are a very weak side of the banking industry,” he said.

“Every ATM can be penetrated through a skimming crime. My security solution, SRS, makes an ATM unbreachable.”

As Reuters notes, Romania is a haven for ATM fraudsters, and some estimates claim that hackers from the country stole $1 billion from U.S. accounts in 2012 alone, trailing only China.

So where did Boanta’s change of heart come from? The Romanian says that he never used ATM card skimmers himself, but rather created them for others out of boredom. He also cited a rush from living on the wrong side of the law, but said he’s since come to realize the impact of his actions on others.

“When I got caught I became happy. This liberation opened the way to working for the good side,” Boanta told Reuters.

“Crime was like a drug for me. After I was caught, I was happy I escaped from this adrenaline addiction,” he said. “So that the other part, in which I started to develop security solutions, started to emerge.”

While Boanta is slated to spend the better part of the next half-decade behind bars, this story could have a happy ending for most involved. SRS was funded and developed by a tech firm called MB Telecon, which says Boanta will have a job waiting for him when he’s released.

To read the full story on Boanta’s change of heart, read the full Reuters piece here.

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