A mysterious glitch in Australia briefly rendered several ATMs in a shutdown cycle that resulted in them being able to withdraw more money from their accounts than they had, resulting in scares over a “free money” run. After the ATMs were put into offline mode to interrupt a glitch, the dispensers began dispensing money without checking the amount in the withdrawers’ bank accounts. But as police guard ATMs across the cities of Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney some are curiously wondering if this could be the latest manifestation of a virus similar to Stuxnet.
Of course authorities have declared that the “free money” was not free money at all, but rather the result of a banking glitch that ultimately could result in fraud charges for those who exploit the glitch. And with the world banking crisis on everyone’s mind and economic collapse warning bells going off across the EU and the commonwealth, some have suggested that banking glitches such as these could be the tipping point that sets off a cascade of catastrophic effects.
But the real question is where did the glitch originate from? Could it have been a date related malfunction as many feared from Y2K? Or has a virus like stuxnet been developed that can lie dormant in financial systems and shut them down at the flipping of a switch? While these disaster scenarios are brewing in the collective minds of conspiracy theorists and computer systems analysts, Commonwealth Bank has declared the situation “under control.” The strange part is, although they made this claim shortly after the announcement of the glitch was made public to Auastralian News Outlets, they still had police guarding the machines long after maintenance came in and fixed the error.
And though the official figure of how many ATMs were affected by the glitch was only 40 in the three cities, and related only to one bank, it was clear the bank was taking the incident very seriously. And though it may sound like a dream come true to some, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia vowed to get all of the unaccounted for money back and charge overdraft fees to those who took advantage of the glitch.
Earlier this year experts warned that stuxnet could pose a problem if its code were modified and it were allowed to affect other types of systems. When Stuxnet was revealed to have disrupted thousands of computers the total breakdown was as follows: Iran 62,867; Indonesia 13,336; India 6,552; The United States 2,913; Australia 2,436; the United Kingdom 1,038; Malaysia 1,013; and Pakistan 993. And since these figures were gathered, many hackers both organized and individual have downloaded the virus for modification or simply to study the code driven by sheer curiosity. Nonetheless, the fact that Stuxnet can now be downloaded and studied by anyone is a subject on many security officials’ minds.
So could Stuxnet or some similar virus have been the cause of the banking glitch? Only time will tell.