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August 28th, 2014

Bad news for SMBs: Target’s “Backoff” malware attack hits 1,000 more businesses

PoS attacks

avast! Endpoint Protection can protect your network

U.S. merchants advised to protect themselves against same PoS hack that hit Target and Neiman Marcus last year.

More than 1,000 U.S. businesses have had their systems infected by Backoff, a point-of-sale (PoS) malware that was linked to the remote-access attacks against Target, Michaels, and P.F. Chang’s last year and more recently, UPS and Dairy Queen. In the Target breach alone, 40 million credit and debit cards were stolen, along with 70 million records which included the name, address, email address, and phone number of Target shoppers.

The way these breaches occur is laid out in BACKOFF: New Point of Sale Malware, a new U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report. Investigations reveal that cybercrooks use readily available tools to identify businesses that use remote desktop applications which allow a user to connect to a computer from a remote location. The Target breach began with stolen login credentials from the air-conditioning repairman.

Once the business is identified, the hackers use brute force to break into the login feature of the remote desktop solution. After gaining access to administrator or privileged access accounts, the cybercrooks are then able to deploy the PoS malware and steal consumer payment data. If that’s not enough, most versions of Backoff have keylogging functionality and can also upload discovered data, update the malware, download/execute further malware, and uninstall the malware.

General steps SMBs and consumers can take to protect themselves

  • You should use a proper security solution, like avast! Endpoint Protection, to protect your network from hacking tools, malicious modules, and from hackers using exploits as a gateway to insert malware into your network.
  • Regularly monitor your bank and credit card statements to make sure all the transactions are legitimate.
  • Change default and staff passwords controlling access to key payment systems and applications. Our blog post, Do you hate updating your passwords whenever there’s a new hack?, has some tips.
  • Monitor your credit report for any changes. You’re entitled to one free report per year from each of the three reporting agencies.

Specific tips to protect your business and customers

Remote Desktop Access

  • Configure the account lockout settings to lock a user account after a period of time or a specified number of failed login attempts.
  • Limit the number of users and workstations who can log in using Remote Desktop.
  • Use firewalls to restrict access to remote desktop listening ports.

Network Security

  • Review firewall configurations and ensure that only allowed ports, services and Internet protocol (IP) addresses are communicating with your network.
  • Segregate payment processing networks from other networks.

Cash Register and PoS Security

  • Implement hardware-based point-to-point encryption. It is recommended that EMV-enabled PIN entry devices or other credit-only accepting devices have Secure Reading and Exchange of Data (SRED) capabilities.
  • Install Payment Application Data Security Standard-compliant payment applications.
  • Deploy the latest version of an operating system and ensure it is up to date with security patches, anti-virus software, file integrity monitoring and a host-based intrusion-detection system.

See more mitigation and prevention strategies from DHS.

Learn more about PoS attacks against small and medium-sized business in our blog, Should small and medium-sized businesses be worried about PoS attacks?

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