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Attacks/Breaches

7/9/2014
04:10 PM
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BrutPOS Botnet Targets Retail's Low-Hanging Fruit

FireEye discovers a botnet that's going after point-of-sale systems showing bad passwords and other basic security no-nos.

In the midst of so many advanced persistent threats that seem impossible to prevent, there is a new threat out there that's still going after the low-hanging fruit. FireEye has discovered a new botnet, BrutPOS, that is being used to find point-of-sale systems' remote administration software and brute force its way into the ones with weak passwords.

Attackers are manipulating poor password practices and lax remote desktop protocol (RDP) implementations to lift payment card information from active processes within POS terminals and other places where payment data is stored.

FireEye has discovered five BrutPOS command-and-control servers, three of which are now inactive; the two active servers, both based in Russia, were set up in late May and early June. FireEye says that the operators of BrutPOS are based in Eastern Europe, most likely Ukraine or Russia.

The botnet has been active since February. At latest count, BrutPOS consisted of 5,622 bots in 119 countries -- many of them in Russia (15.67%), India (13.45%), Vietnam (7.51%), Iran (6.07%), and Taiwan (4.13%). Only a small fraction of the bots are active at any given time.

The bots scan ranges of IP addresses looking for poorly locked-down POS remote admin software.

"What's really interesting here is that the way the malware is propagating is not from some proprietary malware. It's using remote desktop protocol," says Joshua Goldfarb, chief security officer of the enterprise forensics group at FireEye. "It's misusing or abusing a legitimate protocol."

Over the course of two weeks, the attackers gained access to 60 POS systems; 51 of those were in the United States.

The most common username used by the breached systems was "administrator." The most common passwords were "pos" and "Password1."

The attackers use their admin access to install other executables that extract payment card information -- from POS terminals and elsewhere -- and exfiltrate it back to the C&C server.

Goldfarb says that the BrutPOS attackers are exploiting the fact that some organizations are still not following the basic security best-practices that have been recommended for 10 to 20 years.

"Essentially, the theme here is hackers can be lazy because [companies] allow them to be," he says. "They're only as fancy as they need to be."

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

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progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/9/2014 | 9:21:12 PM
So what is the statistical significance
of 51 of the 60 compromised systems being in the US?  Are these things primarily scanning US addresses?  Are they equally scanning other countries but US has more electronic POS?  More vulnerable POS?
Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 9:46:16 AM
Re: So what is the statistical significance
@progman2000  The attackers were scanning 57 IP address ranges, 32 of which are located in the U.S. So it still looks like the US's were easier to break into than other countries'. But Goldfarb was hesitant to speculate on why that is, because they didn't have more information. It's possible that most of the usernames/passwords used for brute-forcing were in English, or simply that American companies still struggle with bad passwords and bad password management.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
7/10/2014 | 12:52:15 PM
Re: So what is the statistical significance
The most common username used by the breached systems was "administrator." The most common passwords were "pos" and "Password1."

You would think that the retail industry could do better than allowing these User Ids and passwords these days. 

 
Sara Peters
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Sara Peters,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 6:25:02 PM
Re: So what is the statistical significance
@Marilyn   "You would think that the retail industry could do better than allowing these User Ids and passwords these days."  You would, but one thing Joshua Goldfarb pointed out to me was the fact that sometimes these very big retailers have so many POS terminals that it's awfully hard to get every single one right. That said, the password "pos" meets almost NONE of your basic requirements -- only three characters, no numbers, no special characters, no mix of caps and lowercase. It's pitiful.
dadsu
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dadsu,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/16/2014 | 1:07:28 PM
Re: So what is the statistical significance
Yes, and for some reason I thought a security standard was to disable guest accounts and rename "administrator" accounts to something besides administrator or admin....
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