Pepper spray-armed ATM misfires

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ATM cash machineAccording to media reports, a bank in Cape Town, South Africa, has equipped its cash machines with pepper spray to deter criminals from tampering and stealing money.

Absa Bank has installed the disorientating pepper spray in 11 of its ATMs, after several cash machines were blown up by thieves last year. If a camera on the ATM determines that the machine is being tampered with (for instance, to install a skimming device or explosives), then the pepper spray is released.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if the technology is fool-proof. During a routine maintenance operation this weekend at an ATM in Fish Hoek, the pepper spray was released by accident - meaning three people had to receive treatment.

Ouch! A false positive perhaps?

Maybe we shouldn't be too surprised by this latest development in ATM security. After all, it's also legal to have flamethrowers installed on your car in South Africa to prevent carjackers.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog at, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley