Barnaby Jack, who has died aged 35, was a “white hat” hacker and computer security expert who sought to preserve the integrity of information systems. In 2010 he came to widespread notice when he demonstrated live on a conference stage how he could drain an ATM (automated teller machine) of its entire reservoir of cash.
In 2008 Jack bought two ATMs, of the kind seen in bars and shops, over the internet for $US2000 each, and had them delivered to his apartment in San Jose, California.
For the next two years he analysed their software codes, believing that there were inherent weaknesses that would allow the machines to be controlled through the internet.
Eventually Jack succeeded in bypassing the demands for passwords and serial numbers, and was able to access his ATMs remotely. He could then withdraw all their cash – a process that became known as “Jackpotting”. He could also access information about bank accounts from the magnetic strips on bank and credit cards, and steal ATM users’ passwords.
At the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas in July 2010, Jack demonstrated all this live on stage, showing how he could connect to an ATM via a telephone modem and, without using a password, withdraw all the machine’s cash.
He died only a week before he was due to demonstrate at a conference how an assassin might kill his victim by disabling an implanted pacemaker or defibrillator from 30 feet away – an idea used in the television series Homeland, starring Damian Lewis and Claire Danes.
Barnaby Jack was found dead at his apartment in San Francisco; the cause of death is unknown.