Members of IBM X-Force Red, a team of seasoned hackers, testing for security issues in consumer electronics at a new secure testing facility in Austin, TX, Monday, August 6, 2018. In the Lab, the team will search for vulnerabilities in consumer and industrial IoT technologies, automotive equipment, ATMs and other systems before and after they are put into market. The Austin facility is one of four X-Force Red Labs, announced today by IBM Security. (Jack Plunkett/Feature Photo Service for IBM) (PRNewsfoto/IBM Security)

IBM has always been at the forefront of cybersecurity since the earliest days of the Internet.

At the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, I interviewed Nick Simicich, an ethical hacker on the IBM staff, whose day job consisted of breaking into company computer systems to expose the vulnerabilities. That was in 1999. Since then, cybersecurity has grown increasingly important as companies face an onslaught of threats from both domestic and foreign sources.

That’s why the announcement by IBM Security that it has established an X-Force Red Lab in Austin is such an important one. The lab is one of a network of four secure labs focused on testing the security of devices and systems including consumer and industrial Internet of Things technologies, automotive equipment, and Automated Teller Machines. The other labs are in Hursley, England, Melbourne, Australia and Atlanta, Georgia.

The new Labs will be operated by X-Force Red, an autonomous team of veteran hackers within IBM Security. The X-Force Red Labs offer secure locations where X-Force Red’s seasoned hackers will work to find vulnerabilities in hardware and software devices before and after they are sent to customers.

“IBM X-Force Red has one mission – hack anything to secure everything,” Charles Henderson, Global Managing Partner, IBM X-Force Red, said in a news release. “Via X-Force Red Labs, we have the ability to do just that, in a secure and controlled environment. Whether it’s the newest smartphone that hasn’t been released, an Internet-connected refrigerator or a new ATM, we have the capability to test, identify, and help our clients remediate vulnerabilities before the bad guys can exploit them.”

In particular, IBM has seen a huge increase in attacks on ATMs. “In early 2018, law enforcement alerted financial institutions of increased threats targeting ATMs in the U.S. that allow criminals to “jackpot” the machines and steal their contents on demand,” according to IBM. “These attacks have been known to use both malware and physical access to the ATM device to empty all of the cash from the machine. Since 2017, X-Force Red has experienced a 300 percent increase in requests for ATM testing due these emerging threats.”