Australia's Federal Police (AFP) has triumphantly announced it has brought a gang of Romanian credit card fraudsters to heel, but not before the criminals purloined half a million credit card numbers from small Australian retailers.
Detective superintendent Brad Marden, the AFP's national co-ordinator for cybercrime operations, told The Register the gang targeted small retailers likely to be ignorant of security and used three techniques to pull of the heist.
The first was using remote desktop management software to infiltrate retailers' PCs, an exploit made possible by the fact whoever installed it had not changed the default passwords.
"The stores relied on local consultants who they were not experts on PCI-DSS, they just wanted to set up a simple small business network," Marden explained. That left RDP ignored and open to attack.
The second issue was un-patched point of sale software.
The third vulnerability that made the attack possible was an insecure point-of-sale PIN pad that Marden said was in the process of being addressed by banks, which issue the devices.
Once attackers were able to access PCs through RDP they were then able to operate the point of sale software and access credit card numbers collected from the PIN pads.
Marden said 46 of the 100 PCs known to have been hit offered sufficient evidence of the source of the hacking and that Australia's banks gathered evidence to help the force pursue the case.
Both vulnerabilities have since been addressed and an education campaign has commenced to inform small retailers about the need to update their software and hardware.
The gang came to the AFP's attention in June 2011 and the revelation of its activities set in motion a 13-nation effort that yesterday culminated in the detention of 16 people, among them champion Graeco-Roman wrestler and mixed martial arts practitioner Gheorghe 'The Carpathian Bear' Ignat, according to the ABC.
Georghe 'The Carpathian Bear' Ignat
The Carpathian Bear was not one of seven people arrested over the matter, which saw $AUD30m of purchases made with purloined credit card numbers. Those transactions took place around the world.
The AFP says those purchases were made with 30,000 credit cards, but that the gang managed to get its hands on half a million.
Australian financial institutions have made sure punters aren't out of pocket, refunding them for fraudulent purchases.
The news may not be as good for the retailers, as contracts offered by banks down under can make them liable for fraudulent transactions if they've not taken all requisite safeguards to protect credit cards. ®