World's most complex cash register malware plunders millions in US

'ModPos' kernel monster threatens haul during festive shopping blitz


The world's most complex sales till malware has been discovered ... after it ripped millions of bank cards from US retailers on the eve of post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzies.

The ModPOS malware has pilfered "multiple millions" of debit and credit cards from the unnamed but large retail companies incurring millions of dollars in damages.

The attackers have operated in a low-key, ultra professional manner since late 2013 and has only come to light after weeks of painstaking reverse-engineering efforts by malware experts.

They have kept mum, too. Cybercrime forums are entirely devoid of references to the malware.

"This is POS [point-of-sale] malware on steroids," iSight Partners senior director Steve Ward says. "We have been examining POS malware forever, for at least the last eight years and we have never seen the level of sophistication in terms of development …[engineers say] it is the most sophisticated framework they have ever put their hands on."

Ward says his team took three weeks to debride one of ModPOS' three kernel modules. By contrast it took the same experts 30 minutes to reverse engineer the Cherry Picker POS malware revealed last week.

The "incredibly talented" authors have done an "amazing job" and have such an understanding of security that the work has impressed the white hat engineers.

"It is hard not to be impressed," Ward says.

He says the criminals have spent a "tonne" of time and money on each packed kernel-driver module which behaving like a rootkit is as difficult to detect as it is to reverse.

That approach to the 0module build is novel.

The anti-forensics componentry is highly-sophisticated, meaning most businesses that the advanced Eastern European attackers have popped will not know the cause of the attack.

It is clearly a tool targeted designed for large-scale revenue generation and return on investment.

Ward and his colleagues have briefed more than 80 major retailers across the US, all of which are on high alert for infection.

He says the attack group will need to change parts of its codebase to re-gain some of its now lost obfuscation, but adds that some changes will be much harder to implement than others.

The encryption used for network and command and control data exfiltration and communication is protected with 128 bit and 256 bit encryption, with the latter requiring a new private key for each customer.

This makes it much more difficult to know what data is being stolen, unlike other sales register malware that slurp details in cleartext.

"We will see disclosures and compromises in the future that point back to this framework." ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022