Malware linked to fraud in the retail sector may be a bigger problem than even the recent revelation about the compromise of systems US retailer Target suggests.
The Target breach at least has been narrowed down to a specific malware tool (a modified version of BlackPOS) that affected its point-of-sale systems and, according to some security experts, enterprise payment processing servers.
Target has admitted 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been compromised over a two-week period, beginning 27 November, as a result of the breach. The numbers of cards exposed by the Neiman Marcus breach is, as yet, unconfirmed but is thought to involve a lower number of higher value cards.
Security firm Seculert reckons attackers were able to extract over 11GB of data out of the Target network through an FTP server, before using a virtual private server (VPS) located in Russia to download this stolen data.
Reuters reports that at least three other unnamed retailers may have been hit using similar techniques to those used in the Target attack.
Chip and PIN wouldn't have been enough to stop fraud in the Target case, according to a blog post by security vendor Easy Solutions.
All this is bad enough by itself, but the picture looks even worse once you consider research that suggests botnet and malware activity is endemic in the retail sector.
Analysis of 139 US retailers from November 2013 until 12 January 2014 by net security firm BitSight found 1,035 instances of unique malware infections actively communicating with attackers from inside corporate networks: 7.5 on average per company.
The Trojan Neurevt was by far the most prevalent attack observed in the retail sector during this time period. Neurevt, which exploits Windows systems, steals sensitive data (such as login details) from a compromised machine by modifying the device's settings and preventing security processes from running. Infection with Neurevt grants hackers unfettered access to compromised machines.
Kaptoxa, which is a modified version of a known hacking tool called BlackPOS, has been linked to the fraud at Target. It is but one example of malicious code coming from an expanding production line. Other hacker tools and Trojans suited to attacks involving the compromise of point-of-sale and back-office systems at retailers include Dexter and Alina. Further examples include Dacebal, a new kind of point-of-sale malware that originates from Romania, which is unusual – not least because it is written in VBScript.
Security intelligence firm interCrawler said that Dacebal brings previously unseen features to the retail attack-orientated malware, including compact command-and-control programming routines. ®