FireEye says hackers are racing to compromise POS systems

The transition to chip-based cards appears to have spurred cybercriminals to quickly find the low-hanging fruit

Cybercriminals are redoubling efforts to steal payment card details from retailers before new defenses are put in place, according to FireEye.

More than a dozen types of malware were found last year that target point-of-sale systems, the electronic cash registers the process payments at many retailers.

Over the last few years, hackers have successfully breached the systems, targeting weaknesses or software vulnerabilities in order to extract card details to sell on the black market.

As of last October, retailers are liable for fraudulent transactions that are not completed using EMV payment cards, which have a microchip and enhanced security defenses that better shield card data.

Major retailers affected by card breaches in the last few years, including Target, have upgraded their systems. But the cost and long delays in getting new systems certified have delayed the transition, leaving a windows for cybercriminals.

Nart Villeneuve, a senior threat intelligence researcher with FireEye, wrote on Monday that more than a dozen malware families that target POS systems were found last year.

"Criminals appear to be racing to infected POS systems in the United States before U.S. retailers complete this transition," Villeneuve wrote.

In response, card issuers and banks have improved their ability to identify and block potentially fraudulent transactions. But the potential windfall has criminals working overtime.

Villeneuve described a new type of POS malware called Treasurehunt, which steals payment card data from a computer's memory.

"In a typical scenario, Treasurehunt would be implanted on a POS system through the use of previously stolen credentials or through brute forcing common passwords that allow access to poorly secured POS systems," he wrote.

Treasurehunt hasn't been seen widely, which indicates that its creators may be deploying it selectively. A string inside its code indicates it was developed by a group that calls itself Bears Inc.

"Bears Inc. is an actor on an underground cybercrime forum dedicated to credit card fraud," Villeneuve wrote. "Bears Inc. has advertised stolen payment card information for sale."

Another string in the code has a playful message: "Greets to Xylitol and co." Xylitol is the nickname of a well-known malware researcher based in France who writes a popular technical blog.

Hacking POS systems has proved profitable for cybercriminals. It's easy to find so-called "carding" forums where payment card details are priced according to how recently the data was stolen and the potential limit of the card. Cybercriminals have found so much low-hanging fruit that the price for stolen card details has actually fallen.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags poscrimesoftwarehacking

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?