Into the Light of Day: Uncovering Ongoing and Historical Point of Sale Malware and Attack Campaigns

Point of Sale systems that process debit and credit cards are still being attacked with an increasing variety of malware. Over the last several years PoS attack campaigns have evolved from opportunistic attacks involving crude theft of card data with no centralized Command & Control, through memory scraping PoS botnets with centralized C&C and most recently to highly targeted attacks that require a substantial amount of lateral movement and custom malware created to blend in with the target organization.

While contemporary PoS attackers are still successful in using older tools and methodologies that continue to bring results due to poor security, the more ambitious threat actors have moved rapidly, penetrating organizational defenses with targeted attack campaigns. Considering the substantial compromise lifespans within organizations that have active security teams and managed infrastructure, indicators shared herein will be useful to detect active as well as historical compromise.

Organizations of all sizes are encouraged to seriously consider a significant security review of any PoS deployment infrastructure to detect existing compromises as well as to strengthen defenses against an adversary that continues to proliferate and expand attack capabilities.

In addition to recent publications discussing Dexter and Project Hook malware activity, Arbor ASERT is currently tracking other PoS malware to include Alina, Chewbacca, Vskimmer, JackPoS and other less popular malware such as variants of POSCardStealer and others. Attack tactics shall also be explored through analysis of an attackers toolkit.

The longevity and extent of attack campaigns is a serious concern. In organizations with security teams and well managed network infrastructure, point of sale compromises have proliferated for months prior to detection. If attackers are able to launch long-running campaigns in such enterprise retail environments, one can conclude that many other organizations with less mature network and infrastructure management are also at serious risk. A sample of high-profile incident timelines, showing the date of the initial compromise, compromise timespan and compromise scope (number stores in this context) is included to highlight this point.

Download the full report: ASERT Threat Intelligence Brief 2014-06 Uncovering PoS Malware and Attack Campaigns

ASERT Threat Intelligence would like to thank fellow ASERT team members Dave Loftus, Alison Goodrich, Kirk Soluk and Matt Bing and also wishes to thank David Dunn of FIS Global and the Shadowserver Foundation for providing additional information.

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