Citadel’s New Target: The Payza Payment Platform

Man-in-the-browser (MitB) malware has been targeting online payment platforms since day one. While popular payment services such as PayPal are constantly being targeted by malware, smaller payment systems are now popping up on cyber criminals’ radar as well. The security team at Trusteer, an IBM company, recently analyzed a Citadel malware variant that targeted, among others, Payza, a payment platform popular in developing countries that have limited access to online financial services.

Payza Under Attack

This newly vulnerable platform states that its mission is “to provide our customers with the world’s first truly global payment platform to bring affordable and convenient payment methods to under-serviced markets and to connect the global marketplace with emerging countries.” There are several security concerns with financial services in developing countries, including the wide use of Internet cafes and public computers and the general lack of online security awareness. Together, these conditions can have serious implications. Public computers are typically at higher risk of malware infection, and when used by an unsuspecting user, the chances of a successful fraudulent transfer are much higher.

A recent Citadel variant discovered by Trusteer’s security team included the following domains in its targeted URLs list:

  • https://secure.payza.com/login
  • https://www.alertpay.com

AlertPay is a Canadian e-wallet service that was acquired by MH Pillars of the U.K.; in May 2012, MH Pillars launched Payza.

The Citadel variant includes Payza-specific MitB code to alter the fields the user is asked to fill in when accessing the login page.

Citadel's New Target: The Payza Payment Platform

The legitimate Payza login screen looks like this:

Citadel's New Target: The Payza Payment Platform

If a user accesses his/her Payza account from an infected computer, Citadel will alter the login screen to look like this:

As these screenshots demonstrate, the Citadel code adds a “Pin” field to the Payza login page. The Payza transaction PIN is used every time a user wants to send funds, add funds, withdraw funds or make a payment. By obtaining the victim’s email, password and PIN, a cyber criminal can take over the account, steal sensitive data and conduct fraudulent transactions.

MitB malware poses a serious threat to online financial services. Users must stay vigilant and be on the lookout for new and suspicious requests even when accessing trusted sites like their bank or online payment website. Trusteer Rapport can detect, mitigate and remove Citadel malware from infected devices and provide a malware-free financial environment.

Etay Maor

Executive Security Advisor, IBM Security

Etay Maor is an Executive Security Advisor at IBM Security, where he leads security and fraud fighting awareness and...