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Attacks/Breaches

10/24/2014
04:20 PM
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Backoff PoS Malware Boomed In Q3

The security firm Damballa detected a 57% increase in infections of the notorious Backoff malware from August to September.

Try as they might, retailers don't seem to be able to get the Backoff malware to actually back off.

According to a new report from the security firm Damballa, detections of the notorious point-of-sale (PoS) malware jumped 57% from August to September. During the month of September alone, Backoff infections increased 27%.

This year, the Secret Service estimated that as many as 1,000 US businesses may be infected by the malware. That list of impacted businesses features some big names, including United Parcel Service (UPS) and Dairy Queen.

According to Damballa, the increase demonstrates that the malware is bypassing network prevention controls, and it underscores the importance of ensuring that PoS traffic is visible.

"In many cases, the PoS systems are free-standing from the corporate network," says Damballa CTO Brian Foster. "They connect to local networks, which have limited security. Without this visibility, it's impossible to discover the device is communicating with criminal command and control."

In addition, many PoS devices are accessible via remote access software for tasks such as software upgrades and patches, providing yet another avenue for compromise, Foster says.

In an advisory issued this summer, US-CERT said that attackers were using remote desktop tools such as Splashtop 2, LogMeIn, and Apple Remote Desktop as a convenient way to deploy PoS malware and steal data.

Curt Wilson, senior research analyst for Arbor Networks' ASERT team says companies that provide for the deployment and ongoing remote support to merchants that run PoS systems should implement strong security, because they are a target.

"If a PoS provider is compromised, the attackers typically obtain access to all their customer deployments via remote access capabilities, leading to complex, distributed compromise," Wilson says. "Strong authentication may provide an extra layer of defense in such a case, unless the strong authentication process is also compromised. Organizations, especially smaller to midsized organizations, should be aware of the potential of remote support being compromised."

All connectivity associated with PoS systems -- even connectivity that appears to be authorized -- should be audited on a regular basis, he says. Merchants purchasing PoS infrastructure should look into the provider's security posture and go elsewhere if they judge the security to be lax or if the appropriate contractual obligations cannot be met.

"Retailers should be implementing best practice security and application controls to prevent this type of malware," says Mike Davis, CTO of CounterTack. "Preventing outbound network connections except to known company owned servers… preventing the saving of data on the PoS except from the PoS software itself, and proper file and disk permissions would have prevented Backoff from working. The problem is, implementing all of this prevention is incredibly difficult, prone to errors, and takes a long time to deploy across the enterprise."

Foster says that, as long as Backoff continues to be effective, organizations should expect it to stick around. "Think of it as the malware du jour. As long as it works, threat actors will keep using it. As soon as its effectiveness diminishes, they will use something else."

Brian Prince is a freelance writer for a number of IT security-focused publications. Prior to becoming a freelance reporter, he worked at eWEEK for five years covering not only security, but also a variety of other subjects in the tech industry. Before that, he worked as a ... View Full Bio

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Robert McDougal
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Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2014 | 1:49:09 PM
Re: Justification for not implementing PoS safeguards?
I would say that a major issue is the lack of qualified security personnel.  In my experience, there is currently a severe lack of people with an information security background.
aws0513
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aws0513,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2014 | 12:01:02 PM
Re: Justification for not implementing PoS safeguards?
I feel "unawarness" is a blanket statement for several situations to include:
  • No IT security team (this is still a reality in smaller companies).
  • Poorly manned or resourced IT security team.
  • An IT security team that has little or no real management backing or influence.
  • Management that just doesn't get it...  period.

My favorite quote to sum up my personal feelings of this Backoff PoS debacle:
"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw

 
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2014 | 11:38:23 AM
Re: Justification for not implementing PoS safeguards?
Ha, no apologies needed. I feel that was a very concise and well appropriated manner to answer my question. I just cannot fathom those as justifiable with the current predicament companies are experiencing. Is the managment "unawareness" for enterprises that don't have a InfoSec team or CISO? If there is still "unawareness" to that end, I feel at this point it would just be apathy.
prospecttoreza
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prospecttoreza,
User Rank: Strategist
10/27/2014 | 10:31:01 AM
...incredibly difficalt ?
The retailers normally buy the PoS systems from integrators. They do not put it together themselves. At which point the systems acuire the valnerabilities - are they improperly configured when installed? Or the retailers IT tinker with them and break the defences to make them work with the company systems? If it is the latter, i would like to read a details explanation of the difficalties, with scripts attached.
aws0513
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aws0513,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2014 | 9:56:26 AM
Re: Justification for not implementing PoS safeguards?
I cannot swallow many justifications at this time, but I can predict some of what is being served up.
  • Lack of technical manpower (tossed salad).
  • Logistics issues regarding upgrading of older hardware (salad dressing).
  • Management "unawareness" (tasteless cooked chicken).
  • Management denial or refusal to deal with the problem (ostrich soup).
  • Immediate funding issues (the normal catch-all vanilla ice cream dessert with multiple toppings).

That is the usual menu items. 
At the moment, I cannot think of any specials that the corporate chefs have served in the past, but I'm sure there are some original dishes being developed in backwater kitchens out there.

(Sorry for the food references, but I am in a goofy mood this morning...  and I need a breakfast break)

 
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2014 | 8:31:46 AM
Justification for not implementing PoS safeguards?
Is there any reason, especially with the current popularity of these exploits, that retailers would not be implementing these best practices when it comes to PoS? Perhaps employee bandwidth? Some of these recommendations could be followed by changing simple infrastructure elements that don't require any monetary involvement.  
securityaffairs
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securityaffairs,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2014 | 7:00:42 AM
About the repor
I agree with data and observations proposed in the report, anyway I hope that next reports could provide more detailed info. I suggest the readers to read the US CERT document mentioned in the report about Backoof POS malware.

We all agree that industry must assume a proper security posture to avoid further damages 
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