Most people would still agree that a high street bank is the safest place for your money. But how is our money kept safe? You might imagine row upon row of pristine banknotes, or even gold lying on dusty shelves, never seeing the light of day, deep within the depths of the vault. In reality, banks keep our money safe using a variety of high tech methods.
Here are five examples:
1) The Vault – Bank Security Systems In 2013
Banks do have a vault, or strong room, but it’s unlikely to be bursting with cash. Most transactions take place electronically, so the majority of money is kept as an electronic record. But banks do keep enough money for daily withdrawals. This money is kept in the vault.
The vault is part of the structure of the building; its walls and door are produced from strengthened concrete. Today’s vault manufacturers keep the actual recipe for their concrete secret, as even today vaults are targeted by thieves. The vault door is made from the same material as the walls, only coated with stainless steel. The lock moves huge bars from the door into the walls of the vault. Several types of lock are available, but the most sophisticated ones are those that have several opening mechanisms. For example, twin combination locks that require two people to open them simultaneously.
2) Safety Deposit Lockers
2)Of course banks don’t just look after your money. Valuable items such as jewellery, legal documents, and even artwork can be stored securely at your bank. Often housed within the vault, many people own a safety deposit locker to keep their valuable items secure, and their insurance premiums down. Traditionally, you would have been given a key to open your locker, but today’s electronic lockers are more sophisticated. Many lockers can be opened using a PIN, or even a biometric method, such as a fingerprint. Accessing your items via your locker is not difficult, but banks will have to check your identity before allowing you access.
3) Online Security
According to the UK Payments Administration, in 2011 UK customers lost £35 million in online fraud. Clearly, any method where you can remotely and anonymously access your account is open to exploitation. In response, banks have stepped up their online security. Many banks provide their business customers with a ‘card reader’ to be able to access their accounts online. The card reader looks a little like a small calculator and has a slot for you to slide in your debit card.
When you need to access your account online, you login using your password as normal. Then, when prompted, you place your card in the reader and type in your PIN. The reader displays a one-time passcode that you then type in to access your account. The passcode generated has to match the passcode generated at the bank, and if it does, you have access.
4) Cash Machines
The first cash machine (or ATM) was installed in the UK in 1967, and has revolutionised the way we access our money. The cash machine is basically a mini vault with a computer controlled interface and a cash delivery mechanism. Today, the most common method of illegally accessing cash through the machine is by brute force. However, banks are staying ahead by installing seismic sensors to their machines that detect possible break-ins in real time. Able to detect an attack by explosives, or even diamond drilling machinery, the sensors are constantly communicating with a software interface. Any interference with the machine that could break into the vault raises an alarm.
5) Intelligent Banknote Neutralisation Systems
The interesting concept about banknotes is that they have no value unless you can spend them. Organisations such as the Banknote Watch promote the idea that if you make cash non-spendable, it’s less likely to be stolen. Cash machine vaults and security boxes that are used to transport money use this concept to deter thieves. Permanent ink cartridges are placed in the vault and, if the vault is broken or destroyed, the ink is dispensed over all the notes, marking them permanently. This technique can be taken further by using SmartWater. This is a traceable substance that if detected on banknotes, can be traced back to exactly where they were stolen from, making prosecuting those responsible much more likely.
Bank security systems in 2013 are extremely comprehensive. From preventing money from being accessed in the first place to even stopping stolen money from being spent, banks are still the most secure place for your money.
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Written by Matt Higgins, a security consultant with 15 years experience.