Attacks/Breaches
12/31/2013
03:53 PM
Gunter Ollmann
Gunter Ollmann
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Sticking It To The ATM

The folly of not preemptively disabling 'boot from USB' on an ATM

Ever since Barnaby Jack leapt on stage at Black Hat USA and had ATMs spew money as if it were going out of style, hackers around the globe have been busy trying to replicate the research before banks and ATM vendors get the vulnerabilities fixed. You'd have thought that after three-and-a-half years both vendors and banks would have fixed the bugs and dealt with the physical attack vectors long ago. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.

A pair of security researchers speaking in Hamburg at last week's Chaos Communication Congress provided new insight and demonstrated some USB-based malware that had been crafted by criminals and used earlier in the year to siphon money from several unpatched ATMs. The original malware authors had taken steps to remove many of the installation traces that forensic investigators would have found useful, so the researchers had to piece together many parts of a complex puzzle.

While it hasn't been disclosed which type of ATM were targeted (or which bank was affected), it seems that the criminals had uncovered physical flaws in the bank's ATM devices that allowed them to cut access holes through which they could slip in their infector USB device. Once the USB device was in place, the ATMs could be rebooted and the malware automatically installed.

I'd have thought that with all the hoopla that followed Black Hat in 2010 and the personal visits that Barnaby Jack (and IOActive -- the consulting company he worked for at the time) made to the ATM manufacturers and high-street banking organizations at the time, that everyone would have at least disabled the "boot from USB" functionality. Apparently, this particular bank hadn't acted on the memo.

The ATM malware appears to have had a number of interesting features designed to protect it from both investigators and fellow criminals or mules. After supplying a 12-digit magic number to bring up a built-in menu, the money mules were provided direct manual access to the machines' money-dispensing functions. However, before money could be extracted, a second code was required, a challenge-response code, most likely added to prevent mules from operating independently of the malware authors.

Given the relative sophistication of the malware and the efforts involved in protecting it from both bank investigators and other criminals, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the malware is already in use by other organized crime gangs around the world. It would be a rare occurrence for any bank targeted by this malware to openly disclose it was a victim -- doing so is not good for business and customer confidence.

While the attack vector -- booting from an infected USB stick -- will have many security veterans rolling their eyes in disbelief that the targeted bank hadn't already mitigated the threat, I've heard several people argue that writing code (malicious or otherwise) for ATMs is difficult. Unfortunately, it's simpler than most realize. Anyone with an understanding of CEN/XFS, or the time to peruse the online manuals, will quickly master the fundamentals.

This USB infector process is the low-hanging fruit for criminals targeting ATM machines. Banks that haven't already mitigated the attack vector are, for lack of a better word, negligent. There can be no excuses for not disabling the "boot from USB" functionality, especially now with the public disclosure of criminal abuse.

-- Gunter Ollmann, CTO, IOActive Inc. Gunter Ollmann serves as CTO for IOActive Inc. where he is responsible for the strategic vision of the security services portfolio, driving new research areas and bringing new services to market. With over two decades in the information security arena, Gunter has stared down ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
macker490
50%
50%
macker490,
User Rank: Ninja
1/6/2014 | 12:58:01 PM
re: Sticking It To The ATM
ATM should have a sensor in it to protect against physical attack such as cutting a hole in it. tripped sensor should just cut off ac power and signal ADT type alarm. even a pin-ball machine can set the TILT alarm.

we need to start publishing these attack methods all over the net so the fools who are playing free and careless wih our security have to straighten up .
mcabral028
50%
50%
mcabral028,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/3/2014 | 4:11:38 PM
re: Sticking It To The ATM
I certainly no security expert. But wouldn't rebooting an ATM, with an unscheduled reboot no less, have caused the ATM to have to logged and sent that information to someone maybe in real-time? I'm looking at this from a maintenance point of view, I guess, rather than a security one. But it seems it would have been a red flag that something wasn't quite right with that machine.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-3541
Published: 2014-07-29
The Repositories component in Moodle through 2.3.11, 2.4.x before 2.4.11, 2.5.x before 2.5.7, 2.6.x before 2.6.4, and 2.7.x before 2.7.1 allows remote attackers to conduct PHP object injection attacks and execute arbitrary code via serialized data associated with an add-on.

CVE-2014-3542
Published: 2014-07-29
mod/lti/service.php in Moodle through 2.3.11, 2.4.x before 2.4.11, 2.5.x before 2.5.7, 2.6.x before 2.6.4, and 2.7.x before 2.7.1 allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files via an XML external entity declaration in conjunction with an entity reference, related to an XML External Entity (XXE) is...

CVE-2014-3543
Published: 2014-07-29
mod/imscp/locallib.php in Moodle through 2.3.11, 2.4.x before 2.4.11, 2.5.x before 2.5.7, 2.6.x before 2.6.4, and 2.7.x before 2.7.1 allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files via a package with a manifest file containing an XML external entity declaration in conjunction with an entity referenc...

CVE-2014-3544
Published: 2014-07-29
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in user/profile.php in Moodle through 2.3.11, 2.4.x before 2.4.11, 2.5.x before 2.5.7, 2.6.x before 2.6.4, and 2.7.x before 2.7.1 allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the Skype ID profile field.

CVE-2014-3545
Published: 2014-07-29
Moodle through 2.3.11, 2.4.x before 2.4.11, 2.5.x before 2.5.7, 2.6.x before 2.6.4, and 2.7.x before 2.7.1 allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary code via a calculated question in a quiz.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Sara Peters hosts a conversation on Botnets and those who fight them.