Can Vending Machines be Hacked?

A vending machine is a lucrative target for hackers. They want the vending machines to serve for free! And since the vending machines are left unattended most of the time, hackers find it very convenient to lay their hands on them and run away with free snacks and sometimes, even money.

For some hackers, it’s just the free items or money that lulls them to hack a vending machine. While for some, it’s the thrill of the hacking challenge that sets them afloat!

But often, there are more dangerous hackers, who are after the credit card numbers and PINs of the customers who used the machine.

Also check: Can Vending Machines Detect Fake Money?

Can Vending Machines be Hacked

Can vending Machines be Hacked?

It’s not as easy to hack a vending machine as it was a few decades ago. Modern technology forbids the machine from giving in to the brute-force physical act of shaking the goods loose. But still, it is possible to hack a vending machine with more sophisticated methods as is used by modern hackers now.


How are Vending Machines Hacked? 

Earlier vending machines were very easy to hack with a blank metal slug or a piece of tape or a coin. But now, it no longer yields to the old rocking back and forth technique. Still, a vending machine can be hacked with more sophisticated methods.

The exact method of hacking a vending machine depends on the intention of the hacker. If it’s plainly for free items, the coding methods work the best. Plus, certain tricks give a vending machine the impression that the customer has inserted the money when he hasn’t. 

In another method, the vending machine is fooled into believing that it hasn’t dispensed anything. Even though it did, to trick it into getting another item or offering a refund.

But if the hacker’s intention is something sinister, like getting the credit card details of the customers, then the machine is vulnerable to firmware mod.

It’s a dangerous technique where the hackers program a card to install a firmware mod, insert it secretly into the vending machine, and return it later to collect it. 

After the mod has recorded the credit card numbers and PINs of customers used the vending machine during that interval.

It is to be noted here that we don’t encourage our readers to hack a vending machine.

Hence, we are not here to provide them with the details of the technicalities. But tell you what? With the advent of advanced technologies, modern vending machines have become smarter now. 

Hence, most of the hacking methods don’t even work!


How to Prevent Vending Machines from Hacking? 

If you own a vending machine, the last thing you want to experience is a hack or a theft. There are several methods by which you can prevent vending machines from hacking. We have discussed some of them below:

How to Prevent Vending Machines from Hacking

Install an Alarm System:

Installing an alarm system gives your vending machine 24 hours protection. It’s like having security who would work round the clock to protect your vending machine from intruders. The alarm system will notify you as soon as it senses any foul play. 

Plus, it will also warn the intruder, which might force him to leave the spot instantly without causing any harm. So, not only will you be able to take timely action if something happens, but also prevent it in certain cases.

Install Security Camera:

Installing a security camera is another way of keeping an eye on your vending machine. You don’t have to be around the machine all the time; the camera will do that for you. You can just sit afar and monitor your camera remotely. It allows you to check on your machine even if you are nowhere near it. 

Moreover, hackers are less likely to target a vending machine with a security camera hovering over it. Plus, customers would feel more secure purchasing from a vending machine with a security camera.

Use Stickers and Signs:

Stickers and signs always act as attractive means of communication. So, use them around your vending machine to communicate tiny messages like “Caution: Cash Taken Out Daily” or “Smile: You are on Camera” or “Watch Out: Don’t Trigger the Alarm.” 

Things like these don’t offend genuine customers while serving as polite warnings to the intruders who are looking to hack your vending machine. However, make sure that the messages that you write in your signs are true. Otherwise, it’s all a moot point!

Install Keys and Locks:

Another simple way to safeguard your vending machine is to install keys and locks. Some vending machines have their own set of security features. But you can introduce additional door locks to increase your security. 

You can even use combination locks to make it even harder for intruders to steal the items from the vending machine. You can either install keys and locks yourself or call a vending machine repair specialist. 

Do proper research on the latest technology before installing the locks and keys on your vending machine to ensure the highest level of security.

Use a Protective Cage:

Another brilliant method to prevent your vending machine from getting hacked is to put it in a protective cage. Now, it won’t be aesthetically pleasing because the vending machine would look as if it’s in jail. 

But it’s a good solution to prevent intruders from hacking the machine. If you are willing to go for this method, make sure that you purchase a sturdy cage and not the one that would easily give in to vandalism. Otherwise, what’s the point!

Ensure Additional Technicalities:

Apart from the solutions suggested above, certain additional technicalities should be kept in mind to prevent vending machines from hacking. Firstly, keep the machine firmly bolted to the floor to prevent tipping, and no external device like a magnet should be allowed to disable the tipping sensor. 

Secondly, the cables entering the vending machine must come up through the bottom and not be left hanging at the back, where they would be easily accessible and manipulated. 

Thirdly, refrain from using tubular pin locks as they aren’t very reliable. Above all, ensure that the data sent over the network-connected vending machines is encrypted to prevent hackers from accessing any confidential data.

Some Other Methods:

Besides all these technical solutions, certain simple but effective methods can help prevent vending machines from getting hacked. Consider placing it near the managers’ office in an establishment or at any other visible and populous area. 

Try building a good rapport with the people in the area surrounding the vending machine. Above all, protect your vending machine by opting for business insurance and have it insured against thefts, loss, hacks, or vandalism.


Conclusion

Hacking a vending machine might seem to be the job of boring school kids looking for free snacks. However, criminals are lurking out in the open, looking to hack the unattended vending machines to serve their sinister purpose. 

So, it is essential to take proper steps to prevent the vending machines from getting hacked to protect the owners and safeguard the customers’ financial information.

Jaren worked for nearly 10 years in the industry. He started his career with FedEx but he later also worked with companies like USPS and Deutsche Post.

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