July 22, 2015 By Douglas Bonderud 2 min read

The holy grail for malware-makers? Substantial reach and high rates of infection. The Andromeda botnet has long been used to deliver payloads across a host of industries, while the newer GamaPOS malware is looking to scrape companies clean of any credit card data through point-of-sale (POS) systems.

According to SecurityWeek, which was reporting on Trend Micro data, while GamaPOS still has a relatively low success rate owing to the number of available POS backdoors, its creators are now boosting signal strength with Andromeda in the hope that sheer target volume will lead to victory. So far, the botnet seems to be doing its job — the RAM-scraper has been spotted in 13 U.S. states and several other countries. But even with Andromeda’s backing, what’s the real risk here?

Malware Open Doors

The rise of POS attacks in recent years has prompted a security shift for companies, with many discovering that their POS systems were remotely accessible for motivated cybercriminals looking to steal or guess login credentials. Efforts at hardening this target have been largely successful, forcing attackers to find a new vector. This is where Andromeda enters the picture: While very few POS systems are also Andromeda-vulnerable, the possibility of eventual compromise paired with potential victim volumes make this a win-win for malicious actors.

Andromeda has seen success in the U.S. through persistence. As noted by CSO Online, the botnet starts by spamming companies with emails that supposedly include Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance documents or updates for back-office systems. If an employee downloads and opens the documents, malicious automation scripts create a network backdoor that makes the computer a part of the Andromeda botnet at large. The GamaPOS creators, meanwhile, are looking to leverage these built-in users as a way to shop around their malware and eventually get lucky.

It Just Takes One

So just how many Andromeda-infected systems are also susceptible to GamaPOS? According to Trend Micro, it’s a paltry 3.8 percent. But here’s the thing: That’s enough to infect companies in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida and nine other states. What’s more, the victimized companies range from credit unions to pet care businesses and wholesale furniture sellers.

Attacks typically start with kits like PsExec and Mimikatz, which allow cybercriminals to collect network data. If the target looks promising, the next step is GamaPOS infection. Once active, the malware scans all active processes for Track 2 or American Banking Association (ABA) credit card data, which contains a user’s account number, encrypted PIN and other discretionary data.

It’s also worth noting that GamaPOS was designed using Microsoft’s .NET platform, which recently went open source. This is the first .NET malware detected by Trend Micro but won’t be the last: Analyst Jay Yaneza said that “it is easier to create malware in the .NET platform, and now that Microsoft made it available as an open-source platform, more developers are expected to use it for their applications.”

GamaPOS is shelving specificity in favor of a smorgasbord — and leveraging Andromeda provides a way to sample massive volumes of network offerings and find one suited to the RAM-scaper’s taste. Bottom line? Success for this malware requires two factors that don’t typically occur in tandem. For any company running a POS backbone vulnerable to Andromeda, however, GamaPOS is one to watch.

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