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A series of tubes, literally hacked.
September 26, 2010 6:04 PM   Subscribe

A gang of thieves dubbed "the vacuum burglars" has struck for the fifteenth time in France, drilling a hole in the pneumatic tube that siphons money from the checkout to the strong-room. They then sucked rolls of cash totalling £60,000 from the safe without even having to break its lock. A classic exploitation of a vulnerability in a system. But is it worth it to fix? via, via

Interestingly, the thieves have only stolen more than 500,000 euros since 2006.

The store being broken into, Monoprix (homepage, in French) has more than 300 locations.

From a quote in the Hacker News post:
[W]hat are they going to do? It's not exactly easy to replace a system of pneumatic tubes for transferring money within a building; a suitable replacement is going to take forever to conceive and implement. And they've only lost €600,000 in 4 years = €150,000/year. If they chose to hire a security guard at every Monoprix, 7 days a week, they would have to spend at least several million Euros per year.
Favorite quote from /.: That's 15 times already that they've connected to the intertubes to illegally download stuff.

posted by nevercalm (38 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I already know it's wrong of me to think this is kind of just a little bit awesome.

I just keep imagining the sound siphoning money out of a vacuum tube makes.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:06 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Come on, it's cash money flowing around in vacuum, tubes. I would forgive anyone for deciding life and video games had converged and that taking the money could get you a really cool avatar.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:12 PM on September 26, 2010


Have we finally reached the point where bank robbery is such a minuscule drain on the system that it is practically a victimless crime?
posted by griphus at 6:18 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


drain on the system

I see what you did there
posted by found missing at 6:22 PM on September 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well obviously, Monoprix's system of moving money around sucks.
posted by Flashman at 6:31 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Have we finally reached the point where bank robbery is such a minuscule drain on the system that it is practically a victimless crime?

I imagine that if their haul was larger per occurrence that it would quickly become more economically justifiable to fix....there was a comment on the /. post (I think it was on that thread, anyway) that addressed how a solution to a problem becomes a problem to itself, with enough locations. I always get a kick out of seeing things that aren't right in a chain store when I think about how much the fix might cost multiplied across all the locations...suddenly a small, $20 or $30 common-sense thing becomes a "why bother?" because it has to be done in 100, 200, 1000, 10,000 sites.
posted by nevercalm at 6:31 PM on September 26, 2010


It may be security hole, but it's clearly not worth fixing. That's because pneumatic tube systems are AWESOME SO LEAVE THEM ALONE!
posted by brundlefly at 6:46 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


They were caught on CCTV but were all wearing balaclavas and could not be identified, the spokesman said.

The thieves' exercise video.
posted by maxwelton at 6:47 PM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Have we finally reached the point where bank robbery is such a minuscule drain on the system that it is practically a victimless crime?

Yeah, pretty much. Actual physical currency seems such a small part of the total financial system these days that heists like this are small potatoes. At banks in the US, most depositers are insured up to $250,000 by the FDIC anyway. Almost every retail chain store deposits it previous day's cash the next day, so even if you hit a store, you're only walking away with one day's swag from one of dozens/hundreds/thousands of stores, so the parent corporation can take that hit. As a matter of fact, most stores train their employees to just give the robbers the money without a hassle (insurance & safety regs usually demand this anyway).

Now you REALLY wanto make a big score, you gotta find a way to collpase an economy and then threaten GLOBAL! FINANCIAL CRISIS! if you don't get your *ahem* "bailout."
posted by KingEdRa at 6:49 PM on September 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Have we finally reached the point where bank robbery is such a minuscule drain on the system that it is practically a victimless crime?

Speaking on behalf of everyone who has ever seen Point Break: Yes. But only if you believe that Patrick Swayze is awesome.
posted by The World Famous at 7:01 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the real bank robbers work at the trading desks these days.
posted by fshgrl at 7:17 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gives a whole new meaning to "vacuuming up money"
posted by kuatto at 7:25 PM on September 26, 2010


I'm sure they'll find it cost effective to fix their system when a bunch of copycats start hitting dozens of their stores.
posted by jellywerker at 7:31 PM on September 26, 2010


Reminds me of a certain movie that played on HBO in the 1980's.
posted by smoothvirus at 7:35 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, at least they're not vacuuming up nickels in front of steam rollers; they won't gain the ire of Taleb.
posted by indubitable at 7:36 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know you've seen too many heist movies when you find yourself rooting for these guys to never get greedy and go for too big a score. Just keep doing what you're doing, guys!
posted by stoneweaver at 7:38 PM on September 26, 2010


The World Famous: Speaking on behalf of everyone who has ever seen Point Break: Yes. But only if you believe that Patrick Swayze is awesome.

I refuse to believe that anyone in group A (those that have seen Point Break) could ever not be a part of Point B (those that believe Patrick Swayze is awesome)

(Actually, I refuse to believe that the population of Point B is anything other than zero point zero.)

Also awesome: the self-control of those who realize that if you don't take too much, they won't pay attention. I always say -- like ALWAYS - when I see bank robbers getting caught for being greedy: "If only I was doing it, I would do X." But I also realize that in that instance it becomes too easy to do X and that I would, in fact, do X if it meant even getting one more dollar/euro/whatever the currency is in WoW.

To see people not doing X... It just fills my heart with possibility.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:39 PM on September 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I meant Group B above, obviously.

(Sorry, I was drunk with Swayze-love like I was Baby in a corner.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:40 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pure adrenalin, right?! The ultimate rush. Other guys snort for it, jab a vein for it -- all you gotta do is jump attach this hose.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:56 PM on September 26, 2010


To see people not doing X... It just fills my heart with possibility.

MCMikeNamara, I know what you mean. A long-time co-worker and I share your "doing it wrong" ethic with regards to crime. "Make sure the getaway van contains a Faraday cage" is our inside joke about the "perfect plan."
posted by infinitewindow at 8:21 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the real bank robbers work at the trading desks these days.

Who are they stealing from and how?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:38 PM on September 26, 2010


I think the real bank robbers work at the trading desks these days.

Who are they stealing from and how?


No, I think fshgrl meant that the actual bank robbers have stopped robbing banks and got legitimate jobs at the trading desks. After working hard to earn their MBA, obviously. People change. And that includes the real bank robbers. Let's give it up for the real bank robbers, everybody!!
posted by The World Famous at 8:43 PM on September 26, 2010


bless you maxwelton for the thieves' exercise video.
posted by storybored at 8:56 PM on September 26, 2010


The fifteenth time? C'mon. They couldn't solve the problem of someone vacuuming money out of their safe? Hello? Inside job.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:58 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would a check valve be so difficult to install? (If one isn't commercially available, I'm sure I could design a little spring insert for a couple of grand. Call me Monoprix!)
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:10 PM on September 26, 2010


I remember about a dude who trained crows to fly around and collect spare change.
posted by delmoi at 9:33 PM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Popular Ethics: "Would a check valve be so difficult to install? (If one isn't commercially available, I'm sure I could design a little spring insert for a couple of grand. Call me Monoprix!)"

Call me old-fashioned, but after the tenth or so robbery I would have insisted in outfitting all existing safes with a shut-off valve, or connect them only through a removable piece of pipe. You know, first thing in the morning someone goes down there and hooks the safe up, last thing in the evening it gets disconnected. Right now I can't think of any reason why that wouldn't work, and it'd be way cheaper than hiring a security guard.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 10:58 PM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I bet you could fix it with a cork.
posted by pracowity at 12:30 AM on September 27, 2010


"have only stolen more than"

what is this i dont even
posted by Eideteker at 5:29 AM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is so easy to fix. At closing time, you just release a swarm of wasps into the tube system.
posted by orme at 6:05 AM on September 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Gives a whole new meaning to "vacuuming up money"

Gives a whole new meaning to "drilling a hole in the pneumatic tube that siphons money from the checkout to the strong-room"... if you know what I mean!
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 7:42 AM on September 27, 2010


Huh. The internet really is a series of tubes.

I'm a bad person, just like the rest of ya'll, because at some level I think this is resourceful and smart, and I hope the thieves don't get greedy and go for that last big haul to ensure their retirement. Take the money and run now, guys!
posted by misha at 7:46 AM on September 27, 2010


French people seem to increasingly recognize the interesting relationship between sucking and money.
posted by chavenet at 8:24 AM on September 27, 2010


"have only stolen more than"

what is this i dont even
posted by Eideteker


You know, I was cribbing from the article, and I saw how awkward that looked when I was cutting and pasting, but I guess I didn't fix it all the way. Oh well. I promise I know how to the speak the english.
posted by nevercalm at 8:50 AM on September 27, 2010


This is so easy to fix. At closing time, you just release a swarm of wasps into the tube system.

This is what is known in the police business as a sting operation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:13 AM on September 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


nevercalm, just don't do that shit to me first thing in the morning. My bain gets al like Rainman trying to solve who's on first.
posted by Eideteker at 9:37 AM on September 27, 2010


just don't do that shit to me first thing in the morning. My bain gets al like Rainman trying to solve who's on first.

I didn't do it to you first thing in the morning, I did it to you at 9:04 pm.
posted by nevercalm at 9:49 AM on September 27, 2010


So basically, the system sucks and the bank robbers know how to make it suck in a special way?

Fascinating.
posted by mephron at 11:16 AM on September 27, 2010


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