Saturday, March 02, 2013

Low-tech vending machine hacking lets D.C. minors buy malt liquor

Vending machines are entering the world of high-tech -- witness the wi-fi vending machines in Japan. These types of vending machines can be hacked, but there was some low-tech hacking going on in Washington, D.C., as a vending machine was "hacked" to dispense malt liquor, instead of soda. The media got a hold of the report -- as opposed to the malt liquor -- on Wednesday.

The rigged Pepsi machine (no, not Coke) was found in the Northeast neighborhood of Trinidad in Washington, D.C., and had been in place for a few months. Danielle Bays, the president of the Trinidad Neighborhood Association said the following:
The Pepsi machine was in front of a 4-unit apartment and of course no one claimed responsibility for it. It charged $3 for the malt liquor so kids were buying it (cheaper for adults to get at the store). MPD disabled it and were waiting for the property owner to have it removed.
While it's unclear who "hacked" the vending machine it's true that -- aside from vending wi-fi -- vending machines have become more high-tech in terms of security (this hack notwithstanding).

For example, Cantaloupe Systems supplies anti-theft technology called Seed Platform that will, among other things, alert vending machine owners when a door is opened. However, the technology is not cheap. A protective device costs $150, or the equivalent of 50 bottles of malt liquor from the now-disabled Pepsi vending machine. If a vending machine was broken into repeatedly, though, the device could end up paying for itself over time.

In addition to the alert service, Seed Platform will also track operations of the vending machine; other Cantaloupe Systems products also hope owners monetize their vending machines more efficiently.

We assume, though, this doesn't mean telling them to install malt liquor instead of Pepsi.

Although this vending machine is illegal, not all such alcohol-dispensing machines are. In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania allowed the nation's first wine "kiosks." These require a customer to swipe his or her driver's license, look into a camera and pass a built-in breathalyzer test before they can purchase an item.

Meanwhile, Japan allows beer to be sold from vending machines. It's reported, though, that the country has made efforts to phase them out since June of 2000, but at this point, it does not appear the intervention has gone very far; beer vending machines are still easily found across the Asian country.

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