01
May 15

Harbortouch is Latest POS Vendor Breach

Last week, Allentown, Pa. based point-of-sale (POS) maker Harbortouch disclosed that a breach involving “a small number” of its restaurant and bar customers were impacted by malicious software that allowed thieves to siphon customer card data from affected merchants. KrebsOnSecurity has recently heard from a major U.S. card issuer that says the company is radically downplaying the scope of the breach, and that the compromise appears to have impacted more than 4,200 Harbortouch customers nationwide.

harbortouchIn the weeks leading up to the Harbortouch disclosure, many sources in the financial industry speculated that there was possibly a breach at a credit card processing company. This suspicion usually arises whenever banks start feeling a great deal of card fraud pain that they can’t easily trace back to one specific merchant (for more on why POS vendor breaches are difficult to pin down, check out this post.

Some banks were so anxious about the unexplained fraud spikes as stolen cards were used to buy goods at big box stores that they instituted dramatic changes to the way they processed debit card transactions. Glastonbury, Ct. based United Bank recently included a red-backgrounded notice conspicuously at the top of their home page stating: “In an effort to protect our customers after learning of a spike in fraudulent transactions in grocery stores as well as similar stores such as WalMart and Target, we have instituted a block in which customers will now be required to select ‘Debit’ and enter their ‘PIN’ for transactions at these stores when using their United Bank debit card.”

A notice to customers of United Bank.

A notice to customers of United Bank.

In a statement released last week to KrebsOnSecurity, Harbortouch said it has “identified and contained an incident that affected a small percentage of our merchants.”

“The incident involved the installation of malware on certain point of sale (POS) systems,” Harbortouch said in a written statement. “The advanced malware was designed to avoid detection by the antivirus program running on the POS System. Within hours of detecting the incident, Harbortouch identified and removed the malware from affected systems. We have engaged Mandiant, a leading forensic investigator, to assist in our ongoing investigation.”

The company said the incident did not affect Harbortouch’s own network, nor was it the result of any vulnerability in the PA-DSS validated POS softwdare.

“Harbortouch does not directly process or store cardholder data,” the company explained. “It is important to note that only a small percentage of our merchants were affected and over a relatively short period of time. We are working with the appropriate parties to notify the card issuing banks that were potentially impacted. Those banks can then conduct heightened monitoring of transactions to detect and prevent unauthorized charges. We are also coordinating our efforts with law enforcement to assist them in their investigation.”

However, according to sources at a top 10 card-issuing bank here in the United States that shared voluminous fraud data with this author on condition of anonymity, the breach extends to at least 4,200 stores that run Harbortouch’s point-of-sale software. Continue reading →


28
Apr 15

China Censors Facebook.net, Blocks Sites With “Like” Buttons

Chinese government censors at the helm of the “Great Firewall of China” appear to have inadvertently blocked Chinese Web surfers from visiting pages that call out to connect.facebook.net, a resource used by Facebook’s “like” buttons. While the apparent screw-up was quickly fixed, the block was cached by many Chinese networks — effectively blocking millions of Chinese Web surfers from visiting a huge number of sites that are not normally censored.

fblikeunlike

Sometime in the last 24 hours, Web requests from within China for a large number of websites were being redirected to wpkg.org, an apparently innocuous site hosting an open-source, automated software deployment, upgrade and removal program for Windows.

One KrebsOnSecurity reader living in China who was inconvenienced by the glitch said he discovered the problem just by trying to access the regularly non-blocked UK newspapers online. He soon noticed a large swath of other sites were also being re-directed to the same page.

“It has the feel of a cyber attack rather than a new addition to the Great Firewall,” said the reader, who asked not to be identified by name. “I thought it might be malware on my laptop, but then I got an email from the IT services at my university saying the issue was nation-wide, which made me curious. It’s obviously very normal for sites to be blocked here in China, but the scale and the type of sites being blocked (and the fact that we’re being re-directed instead of the usual 404 result) suggests a problem with the Internet system itself. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing the Chinese gov would do intentionally, which raises some interesting questions.”

Nicholas Weaver, a researcher who has delved deeply into Chinese censorship tools in his role at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and the University of California, Berkeley, agrees that the blocking of connect.facebook.net by censors inside the country was likely a mistake.

“Any page that had a Facebook Connect element on it that was unencrypted and visited from within China would instead get this thing which would reload the main page of wpkg.org,” Weaver said, noting that while Facebook.com always encrypts users’ connections, sites that rely on Facebook “like” buttons and related resources draw those from connect.facebook.net. “That screw-up seems to have been fairly quickly corrected, but the effect of it has lingered because it got into peoples’ domain name system (DNS) caches.”

In short, a brief misstep in censorship can have lasting and far flung repercussions. But why should this be considered a screw-up by Chinese censors? For one thing, it was corrected quickly, Weaver said.

“Also, the Chinese censors don’t benefit from it, because this caused a huge amount of disruption to Chinese web surfers on pages that the government doesn’t want to censor,” he said. Continue reading →


28
Apr 15

A Day in the Life of a Stolen Healthcare Record

When your credit card gets stolen because a merchant you did business with got hacked, it’s often quite easy for investigators to figure out which company was victimized. The process of divining the provenance of stolen healthcare records, however, is far trickier because these records typically are processed or handled by a gauntlet of third party firms, most of which have no direct relationship with the patient or customer ultimately harmed by the breach.

I was reminded of this last month, after receiving a tip from a source at a cyber intelligence firm based in California who asked to remain anonymous. My source had discovered a seller on the darknet marketplace AlphaBay who was posting stolen healthcare data into a subsection of the market called “Random DB ripoffs,” (“DB,” of course, is short for “database”).

Eventually, this same fraudster leaked a large text file titled, “Tenet Health Hilton Medical Center,” which contained the name, address, Social Security number and other sensitive information on dozens of physicians across the country.

AlphaBayHealthContacted by KrebsOnSecurity, Tenet Health officials said the data was not stolen from its databases, but rather from a company called InCompass Healthcare. Turns out, InCompass disclosed a breach in August 2014, which reportedly occurred after a subcontractor of one of the company’s service providers failed to secure a computer server containing account information. The affected company was 24 ON Physicians, an affiliate of InCompass Healthcare.

“The breach affected approximately 10,000 patients treated at 29 facilities throughout the U.S. and approximately 40 employed physicians,” wrote Rebecca Kirkham, a spokeswoman for InCompass.

“As a result, a limited amount of personal information may have been exposed to the Internet between December 1, 2013 and April 17, 2014, Kirkham wrote in an emailed statement. Information that may have been exposed included patient names, invoice numbers, procedure codes, dates of service, charge amounts, balance due, policy numbers, and billing-related status comments. Patient social security number, home address, telephone number and date of birth were not in the files that were subject to possible exposure. Additionally, no patient medical records or bank account information were put at risk. The physician information that may have been exposed included physician name, facility, provider number and social security number.”

Kirkham said up until being contacted by this reporter, InCompass “had received no indication that personal information has been acquired or used maliciously.”

So who was the subcontractor that leaked the data? According to PHIprivacy.net (and now confirmed by InCompass), the subcontractor responsible was PST Services, a McKesson subsidiary providing medical billing services, which left more than 10,000 patients’ information exposed via Google search for over four months.

As this incident shows, a breach at one service provider or healthcare billing company can have a broad impact across the healthcare system, but can be quite challenging to piece together. Continue reading →


27
Apr 15

SendGrid: Employee Account Hacked, Used to Steal Customer Credentials

Sendgrid, an email service used by tens of thousands of companies — including Silicon Valley giants as well as Bitcoin exchange Coinbase — said attackers compromised a Sendgrid employee’s account, which was then used to steal the usernames, email addresses and (hashed) passwords of customer and employee accounts. The announcement comes several weeks after Sendgrid sought to assure customers that the breach was limited to a single customer account.

sg1On April 9, The New York Times reported that Coinbase had its Sendgrid credentials compromised, and that thieves were apparently using the access to launch phishing attacks against Bitcoin-related businesses. Sendgrid took issue with the Times piece for implying that SendGrid had incurred a platform-wide breach. “The story has now been updated to reflect that only a single SendGrid customer account was compromised,” Sendgrid wrote in a blog post published that same day.

Today, Sendgrid published another post walking that statement back a bit, saying it now had more information about the extent of the intrusion thanks to assistance from data breach investigators:

“After further investigation in collaboration with law enforcement and FireEye’s (Mandiant) Incident Response Team, we became aware that a SendGrid employee’s account had been compromised by a cyber criminal and used to access several of our internal systems on three separate dates in February and March 2015,” wrote David Campbell, Sendgrid’s chief security officer.  Campbell continues:

“These systems contained usernames, email addresses, and (salted and iteratively hashed) passwords for SendGrid customer and employee accounts. In addition, evidence suggests that the cyber criminal accessed servers that contained some of our customers’ recipient email lists/addresses and customer contact information. We have not found any forensic evidence that customer lists or customer contact information was stolen. However, as a precautionary measure, we are implementing a system-wide password reset. Because SendGrid does not store customer payment cards we do know that payment card information was not involved.”

Sendgrid is urging customers to change their passwords, and to take advantage of the company’s multi-factor authentication offering. Sendgrid also said it is working to add more authentication methods for its two-factor security, and to expedite the release of special “API keys” that will allow customers to use keys instead of passwords for sending email through its systems.

Sendgrid manages billions of emails for some big brand names, including Pinterest, Spotify and Uber. This reach makes them a major target of fraudsters and spammers, who would like nothing more than to control whitelisted accounts capable of blasting out so much email each day.

In March 2015, U.S. prosecutors indicted three men in connection with the April 2011 compromise of commercial email giant Epsilon. Days after that break-in, customers at dozens of Fortune 500 companies began complaining of receiving spam to email addresses they’d created specifically for use with the companies directly served by Epsilon and its network of email providers.


27
Apr 15

What’s Your Security Maturity Level?

Not long ago, I was working on a speech and found myself trying to come up with a phrase that encapsulates the difference between organizations that really make cybersecurity a part of their culture and those that merely pay it lip service and do the bare minimum (think ‘15 pieces of flair‘). When the phrase “security maturity” came to mind, I thought for sure I’d conceived of an original idea and catchy phrase.

It turns out this is already a thing. And a really notable thing at that. The graphic below, produced last year by the Enterprise Strategy Group, does a nice job of explaining why some companies just don’t get it when it comes to taking effective measures to manage cyber risks and threats.

SecurityMaturity

Very often, experience is the best teacher here: Data breaches have a funny way of forcing organizations — kicking and screaming — from one vertical column to another in the Security Maturity matrix. Much depends on whether the security professionals in the breached organization have a plan (ideally, in advance of the breach) and the clout for capitalizing on the brief post-breach executive attention on security to ask for changes and resources that can assist the organization in learning from its mistakes and growing.

But the Security Maturity matrix doesn’t just show how things are broken: It also provides a basic roadmap for organizations that wish to change that culture. Perhaps unsurprisingly, entities that are able to manage that transition typically have a leadership that is invested in and interested in making security a core priority. The real trick is engineering ways to influence the leadership, with or without the fleeting momentum offered by a breach. Continue reading →


20
Apr 15

Taking Down Fraud Sites is Whac-a-Mole

I’ve been doing quite a bit of public speaking lately — usually about cybercrime and underground activity — and there’s one question that nearly always comes from the audience: “Why are these fraud Web sites allowed to operate, and not simply taken down?” This post is intended to serve as the go-to spot for answering that question.

Q: Why not take down the hundreds of sites now selling stolen credit cards and identity data?

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 11.53.35 PMA: For starters, it’s not always so easy to take these sites offline. Many of them rely on domain name registrars that routinely ignore abuse requests. The same goes for the organizations hosting a number of these unsavory markets. What’s more, most crime shops have a slew of new domain variations at a variety of hosting providers and registrars that they can turn to if they do get shut down.

More importantly, fraud shops don’t often get shut down because they are quite useful to law enforcement, banks and researchers alike. Stolen data that has value among computer crooks will always find a way onto illicit markets; it benefits the aforementioned parties if those markets aren’t so exclusive that the crooks can no longer easily view or buy the data for sale.

As I’ve discussed in several articles, banks and law enforcement often use these services to figure out which merchant has been hacked; to help stanch the flow of new stolen data; and, effectively, stop the breach.

Q: Why are there so many of these card shops hosted in the clear Web, instead of via Tor, I2P or some other anonymization technology that allows the shop to hide its true Internet address? 

A: Most card shops sell only a tiny fraction (think single-digit percentages) of the cards they have for sale at any one time. As I noted in the second half of this piece, the thieves in charge of the shop primarily responsible for selling cards stolen from Target and Home Depot only sold a very small percentage of the more than 100 million credit and debit cards they stole from those two companies. Russian computer forensics firm Group-IB found similar single-digit sales figures at swipe[dot]su, a long running card shop that they hacked last year.

In short, stolen cards are not like fine wines: They don’t age well. The minute they are put up for sale, their value starts to decline. And there are many times more stolen cards available than there are crooks to absorb anywhere near double-digit percentages of cards stolen from a given merchant. Hence, it behooves the card vendors to make their shops as accessible and easy-to-use as possible.

Q: How come law enforcement officials can’t just put these guys and others out of business or behind bars for this activity?

A: Occasionally, the proprietors of these card shops do get arrested and jailed. But a great many of the sites are run by individuals living in Russia and Ukraine. Neither nation has shown itself particularly anxious to arrest cyber crooks within its borders, so long as those crooks are mainly picking on targets outside of their home country. Also, cybercrooks based in Russia and Ukraine who don’t steal from their own generally have little to fear from foreign law enforcement and governments provided they don’t travel to Western-friendly nations. Continue reading →


15
Apr 15

POS Providers Feel Brunt of PoSeidon Malware

“PoSeidon,” a new strain of malicious software designed to steal credit and debit card data from hacked point-of-sale (POS) devices, has been implicated in a number of recent breaches involving companies that provide POS services primarily to restaurants, bars and hotels. The shift by the card thieves away from targeting major retailers like Target and Home Depot to attacking countless, smaller users of POS systems is giving financial institutions a run for their money as they struggle to figure out which merchants are responsible for card fraud.

Image: Cisco.

Image: Cisco.

One basic tool that banks use to learn the source of card data theft involves determining a “common point-of-purchase” (CPP) among a given set of customer cards that experience fraud. When a new batch of cards goes on sale at an online crime shop, banks will often purchase a very small number of their stolen cards to determine if the victim customers all shopped at the same merchant across a specific time period.

This same CPP analysis was critical to banks helping this reporter identify some of the biggest retail breaches on record in recent years, and it is a method heavily relied upon by law enforcement agencies to identify breach victims.

But the CPP approach usually falls flat if all of the cards purchased from the fraud shop fail to reveal a common merchant. More seasoned fraud shops have sought to achieve this confusion and confound investigators by “making sausage” — i.e., methodically mixing cards stolen from multiple victims into any single new batch of stolen cards that they offer for sale.

Increasingly, however, fraudsters selling stolen cards don’t need to make sausage: The victims that are leaking card data are already subsets of restaurant franchises or retail establishments whose only commonality is the branded point-of-sale device which they rely upon to process customer card transactions.

NEXTEP

Card breaches involving POS devices sold by the same vendor are notoriously hard for financial institutions to diagnose because the banks very often have a direct relationship with neither the POS vendor nor the breached restaurant or bar whose customers’ cards were stolen.

nextepWhat’s more, POS-specific breaches frequently tie back to a subset of customers of a POS vendor who in turn rely on local IT company to install and support the POS systems. The commonality among breached restaurants and bars tends to be those who have relied on a support firm that invariably enables remote access to the POS systems via tools like pcAnywhere or LogMeIn using the same or easily-guessed username and password across many customer systems. Once remotely authenticated to the targeted systems, thieves can upload malware like POSeidon, which is capable of capturing all card data processed by the victim POS.

A few weeks ago, this reporter broke the news that multiple systems run by POS vendor NEXTEP had experienced a breach. The banks were only able to pinpoint NEXTEP systems as the source because the overwhelming number of merchants impacted in that breached happened to be NEXTEP customers who also were part of the Zoup chain of soup restaurants.

“You may have seen the discussions of the ‘PoSeidon’ malware that specifically targeted point of sale systems,” NEXTEP CEO Tommy Woycik said in a follow-up email. “Within thirty-six hours of the point that we learned of the problem we were able to internally use our resources to block further data compromise with most of our customers.  We retained and worked with two different sets of consultants to fix all remaining problems and to evaluate, on an ongoing basis, the effectiveness of the fixes.”

Woycik said the company also is investigating why the vast majority of its customers had no compromise of information, but that the hack was limited to a few identified locations. Part of the problem was that some of the breached locations relied on point-of-sale management firms that refused to cooperate in the investigation.

“We have been somewhat hampered in our investigation because some parties involved in the locations that we believe may have been affected have been unwilling to provide us with critical data,” he said.

Continue reading →


14
Apr 15

Critical Updates for Windows, Flash, Java

Get your patch chops on people, because chances are you’re running software from Microsoft, Adobe or Oracle that received critical security updates today. Adobe released a Flash Player update to fix at least 22 flaws, including one flaw that is being actively exploited. Microsoft pushed out 11 update bundles to fix more than two dozen bugs in Windows and associated software, including one that was publicly disclosed this month. And Oracle has an update for its Java software that addresses at least 15 flaws, all of which are exploitable remotely without any authentication.

brokenflash-aAdobe’s patch includes a fix for a zero-day bug (CVE-2015-3043) that the company warns is already being exploited. Users of the Adobe Flash Player for Windows and Macintosh should update to Adobe Flash Player 17.0.0.169 (the current versions other OSes is listed in the chart below).

If you’re unsure whether your browser has Flash installed or what version it may be running, browse to this link. Adobe Flash Player installed with Google Chrome, as well as Internet Explorer on Windows 8.x, should automatically update to version 17.0.0.169.

Google has an update available for Chrome that fixes a slew of flaws, and I assume it includes this Flash update, although the Flash checker pages only report that I now have version 17.0.0 installed after applying the Chrome update and restarting (the Flash update released last month put that version at 17.0.0.134, so this is not particularly helpful). To force the installation of an available update, click the triple bar icon to the right of the address bar, select “About Google” Chrome, click the apply update button and restart the browser.

The most recent versions of Flash should be available from the Flash home page, but beware potentially unwanted add-ons, like McAfee Security Scan. To avoid this, uncheck the pre-checked box before downloading, or grab your OS-specific Flash download from here. Windows users who browse the Web with anything other than Internet Explorer may need to apply this patch twice, once with IE and again using the alternative browser (Firefox, Opera, e.g.).

brokenwindowsMicrosoft has released 11 security bulletins this month, four of which are marked “critical,” meaning attackers or malware can exploit them to break into vulnerable systems with no help from users, save for perhaps visiting a booby-trapped or malicious Web site. The Microsoft patches fix flaws in Windows, Internet Explorer (IE), Office, and .NET

The critical updates apply to two Windows bugs, IE, and Office. .NET updates have a history of taking forever to apply and introducing issues when applied with other patches, so I’d suggest Windows users apply all other updates, restart and then install the .NET update (if available for your system). Continue reading →


13
Apr 15

White Lodging Confirms Second Breach

In February 2015, KrebsOnSecurity reported that for the second time in a year, multiple financial institutions were complaining of fraud on customer credit and debit cards that were all recently used at a string of hotel properties run by hotel franchise firm White Lodging Services Corporation. The company said at the time that it had no evidence of a new breach, but last week White Lodging finally acknowledged a “suspected” breach of point-of-sale systems at 10 locations.

whitelodgingBanking sources back in February 2015 told this author that the cards compromised in this most recent incident looked like they were stolen from many of the same White Lodging locations implicated in the 2014 breach, including hotels in Austin, Texas, Bedford Park, Ill., Denver, Indianapolis, and Louisville, Kentucky.  Those sources said the compromises appear once again to be tied to hacked cash registers at food and beverage establishments within the White Lodging run hotels. The sources said the fraudulent card charges that stemmed from the breach ranged from mid-September 2014 to January 2015.

In a press release issued April 8, 2015, White Lodging announced the “suspected breach of point of sales systems at food and beverage outlets, such as restaurants and lounges, from the period July 3, 2014 through February 6, 2015 at 10 properties.

While it acknowledged some of the locations breached this time around were the same as last year’s victim locations, the company emphasized that this was a separate breach.

“After suffering a malware incident in 2014, we took various actions to prevent a recurrence, including engaging a third party security firm to provide security technology and managed services,” wrote Dave Sibley, White Lodging president and CEO, Hospitality Management. “These security measures were unable to stop the current malware occurrence on point of sale systems at food and beverage outlets in 10 hotels that we manage.  We continue to remain committed to investing in the measures necessary to protect the personal information entrusted to us by our valuable guests.  We deeply regret and apologize for this situation.”

White Lodging said the stolen data includes names printed on customers’ credit or debit cards, credit or debit card numbers, and the security code and card expiration dates. Naturally, White Lodging is offering a year’s worth of credit protection services for customers impacted by the breach, from Experian.


10
Apr 15

Don’t Be Fodder for China’s ‘Great Cannon’

China has been actively diverting unencrypted Web traffic destined for its top online search service — Baidu.com — so that some visitors from outside of the country were unwittingly enlisted in a novel and unsettling series of denial-of-service attacks aimed at sidelining sites that distribute anti-censorship tools, according to research released this week.

The findings, published in a joint paper today by researchers with University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and the University of California, Berkeley, track a remarkable development in China’s increasingly public display of its evolving cyber warfare prowess.

“Their willingness to be so public mystifies me,” said Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the ICSI who helped dig through the clues about the mysterious attack. “But it does appear to be a very public statement about their capabilities.”

greatcannon

Earlier this month, Github — an open-source code repository — and greatfire.org, which distributes software to help Chinese citizens evade censorship restrictions enacted by the so-called “Great Firewall of China,” found themselves on the receiving end of a massive and constantly-changing attack apparently designed to prevent people from being able to access the sites.

Experts have long known that China’s Great Firewall is capable of blocking Web surfers from within the country from accessing online sites that host content which is deemed prohibited by the Chinese government. But according to researchers, this latest censorship innovation targeted Web surfers from outside the country who were requesting various pages associated with Baidu, such that Internet traffic from a small percentage of surfers outside the country was quietly redirected toward Github and greatfire.org.

This attack method, which the researchers have dubbed the “Great Cannon,” works by intercepting non-Chinese traffic to Baidu Web properties, Weaver explained.

“It only intercepts traffic to a certain set of Internet addresses, and then only looks for specific script requests. About 98 percent of the time it sends the Web request straight on to Baidu, but about two percent of the time it says, ‘Okay, I’m going to drop the request going to Baidu,’ and instead it directly provides the malicious reply, replying with a bit of Javascript which causes the user’s browser to participate in a DOS attack, Weaver said. Continue reading →