Malware Threats Go Where the Money Is

October 10, 2016 @ 8:59 AM
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2 min read

Legendary bank robber Willie Sutton famously explained that he robs banks “because that’s where the money is.” Cybercriminals are taking a page out of Sutton’s book, targeting point-of-sale (POS) systems, whether physically or online, to expand their malware threats. For online fraudsters, the POS is where the money is.

Where the Money Is

FastPOS has been infecting POS machines for so long that it has an observable version history. According to Softpedia, the malware underwent a major revision in September. The update shows a growing sophistication in how FastPOS operates.

Whereas it previously ran only one process at a time, FastPOS has evolved into a modular infection where each module is capable of operating independently. A module may cause a process to appear when active, but it can also hide in other programs. This way, instead of writing the function to one file, different components can hide in the malware’s resource.

Trend Micro recently issued an updated advisory about FastPOS. It reported that the malware uses mailslots to run applications that store and retrieve messages. Mailslots are temporary, so attackers can save information to them without leaving the traces that a physical file would entail.

To prevent this type of malware, POS systems must implement strict application control, which would allow only whitelisted applications to execute.

More POS Malware Threats

Going the e-commerce route won’t prevent a malware attack from occurring — it just won’t show up in the same way.

Attackers might compromise a site through a vulnerability that originated from the content management system (CMS), enabling them to alter the site’s source code by including a JavaScript file. Magecart does just that.

Once active, the Magecart malware waits for the user to be on the checkout page, according to a Softpedia article. When that happens, a second keylogger function is activated to scrape user data. It can even add input fields to the site’s checkout form if the attackers want more personal or financial information.

Magecart’s authors took pains to change the domains that download malware code, so monitoring just one address won’t help. Payment systems should require complex admin credentials to protect against this type of malware. The server and CMS software should also be kept up to date to prevent attackers from exploiting legacy vulnerabilities.

As cybercriminals become more sophisticated in their robbery techniques, IT organizations must prepare for new and unexpected attacks. Thieves will always go where the money is.

Larry Loeb
Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE mag...
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