Aug 16

Visa Alert and Update on the Oracle Breach

Credit card industry giant Visa on Friday issued a security alert warning companies using point-of-sale devices made by Oracle‘s MICROS retail unit to double-check the machines for malicious software or unusual network activity, and to change passwords on the devices. Visa also published a list of Internet addresses that may have been involved in the Oracle breach and are thought to be closely tied to an Eastern European organized cybercrime gang.


The Visa alert is the first substantive document that tries to help explain what malware and which malefactors might have hit Oracle — and by extension many of Oracle’s customers — since KrebsOnSecurity broke news of the breach on Aug. 8. That story cited sources close to the investigation saying hackers had broken into hundreds of servers at Oracle’s retail division, and had completely compromised Oracle’s main online support portal for MICROS customers.

MICROS is among the top three point-of-sale vendors globally. Oracle’s MICROS division sells point-of-sale systems used at more than 330,000 cash registers worldwide. When Oracle bought MICROS in 2014, the company said MICROS’s systems were deployed at some 200,000+ food and beverage outlets, 100,000+ retail sites, and more than 30,000 hotels.

In short, tens of millions of credit cards are swiped at MICROS terminals monthly, and a breach involving the theft of credentials that might have granted remote access to even just a small percentage of those systems is potentially a big and costly problem for all involved.

So far, however, most MICROS customers are left scratching their heads for answers. A frequently asked questions bulletin (PDF) Oracle also released last Monday held little useful information. Oracle issued the same cryptic response to everyone who asked for particulars about how far the breach extended. “Oracle has detected and addressed malicious code in certain legacy MICROS systems.”

Oracle also urged MICROS customers to change their passwords, and said “we also recommend that you change the password for any account that was used by a MICROS representative to access your on-premises systems.”

One of two documents Oracle sent to MICROS customers and the sum total of information the company has released so far about the breach.

One of two documents Oracle sent to MICROS customers and the sum total of information the company has released so far about the breach.

Some technology and fraud experts, including Gartner Analyst Avivah Litan, read that statement highlighted in yellow above as an acknowledgement by Oracle that hackers may have abused credentials gained in the MICROS portal breach to plant malicious code on the point-of-sale devices run by an unknown number of MICROS customers.

“This [incident] could explain a lot about the source of some of these retail and merchant point-of-sale hacks that nobody has been able to definitively tie to any one point-of-sale services provider,” Litan told me last week. “I’d say there’s a big chance that the hackers in this case found a way to get remote access” to MICROS customers’ on-premises point-of-sale devices.”

Clearly, Visa is concerned about this possibility as well.


In my original story about the breach, I wasn’t able to reveal all the data I’d gathered about the apparent source of the attacks and attackers. A key source in that story asked that I temporarily delay publishing certain details of the investigation, specifically those known as indicators of compromise (IOCs). Basically, IOCs are list of suspect Internet addresses, domain names, filenames and other curious digital clues that are thought to connect the victim with its attacker.

I’ve been inundated all week with calls and emails from security experts asking for that very data, but sharing it wasn’t my call. That is, until yesterday (8/12/16), when Visa published a “merchant communication alert” to some customers. In that alert (PDF), Visa published IOCs that may be connected with the intrusion. These IOCs could be extremely useful to MICROS customers because the presence of Internet traffic to and from these online destinations would strongly suggest the organization’s point-of-sale systems may be similarly compromised.

Some of the addresses on this list from Visa are known to be associated with the Carbanak Gang, a group of Eastern European hackers that Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab estimates has stolen more than $1 billion from banks and retailers. Here’s the IOCs list from the alert Visa pushed out Friday:

VISA warned merchants to check their systems for any communications to and from these Internet addresses and domain names associated with a Russian organized cybercrime gang called "Carbanak."

Visa warned merchants to check their systems for any communications to and from these Internet addresses and domain names associated with a Russian organized cybercrime gang called “Carbanak.”

Thankfully, since at least one of the addresses listed above ( matched what’s on my source’s list, the source agreed to let me publish the entire thing. Here it is. I checked my source’s list and found at least five Internet addresses that were seen in both the Oracle attack and in a Sept. 2015 writeup about Carbanak by ESET Security, a Slovakian antivirus and security company. [NB: If you are unskilled at safely visiting malicious Web sites and/or handling malware, it’s probably best not to visit the addresses in the above-linked list.]

Visa also mentioned a specific POS-malware threat in its alert called “MalumPOS.” According to researchers at Trend Micro, MalumPOS is malware designed to target point-of-sale systems in hotels and related industries. In fact, Trend found that MalumPOS is set up to collect data specifically from point-of-sale systems running on Oracle’s MICROS platform.

It should come as no surprise then that many of Oracle’s biggest customers in the hospitality industry are starting to make noise, accusing Oracle of holding back key information that could help MICROS-based companies stop and clean up breaches involving malware and stolen customer credit card data.

“Oracle’s silence has been deafening,” said Michael Blake, chief executive officer at HTNG, a trade association for hotels and technology. “They are still grappling and trying to answer questions on the extent of the breach. Oracle has been invited to the last three [industry] calls this week and they are still going about trying to reach each customer individually and in the process of doing so they have done nothing but given the lame advice of changing passwords.”

The hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit by point-of-sale compromises over the past two years. Last month, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news of a breach at Kimpton Hotels (Kimpton appears to run MICROS products, but the company declined to answer questions for this story).

Kimpton joins a long list of hotel brands that have acknowledged card breaches over the last year, including Trump Hotels (twice), Hilton, Mandarin Oriental, and White Lodging (twice), Starwood Hotels and Hyatt. In many of those incidents, thieves had planted malicious software on the point-of-sale devices at restaurants and bars inside of the hotel chains. And, no doubt, many of those cash registers were run on MICROS systems.

If Oracle doesn’t exactly know which — if any — of its MICROS customers had malware on their point-of-sale systems as a result of the breach, it may be because the network intruders didn’t have any reason to interact with Oracle’s customers via the MICROS portal after stealing usernames and passwords that would allow them to remotely access customer on-premises systems. In theory, at that point the fraudsters could have bypassed Oracle altogether from then on.


Another possibly interesting development in the Oracle breach story: There are indications that Oracle may have been breached by more than one cybercrime group. Or at least handed off from one to the other.

Late this week, Thomas Fox-Brewster at Forbes published a story noting that MICROS was just one of at least five point-of-sale companies that were recently hacked by a guy who — from an exhaustive review of his online chats — appears to have just sat himself down one day and decided to hack a bunch of point-of-sale companies.

Forbes quoted my old friend Alex Holden of Hold Security saying he had evidence that hackers had breached at least 10 payment companies, and the story focuses on getting confirmation from the various other providers apparently breached by the same cybercriminal actor.

Holden showed me multiple pages worth of chat logs between two individuals on a cybercrime forum [full disclosure: Holden’s company lists me as an adviser, but I accept no compensation for that role, and he ignores most of my advice].

The discussion between the two hackers begins around July 15, 2016, and goes on for more than a week. In it, the two hackers have been introduced to one another through a mutual, trusted contact. For a while, all they discuss is whether the seller can be trusted to deliver the Oracle MICROS database and control over the Oracle MICROS customer ticketing portal.

In the end, the buyer is convinced by what he sees and agrees to pay the bitcoin equivalent of roughly USD $13,000 for access to Oracle’s MICROS portal, as well as a handful of other point-of-sale Web sites. The buyer’s bitcoin wallet and the associated transactions can be seen here.

A screen shot shared by one of the hackers involved in compromising Oracle's MICROS support portal. This screen shot was taken of a similar Web shell the hackers placed on the Web site of another POS provider (this is not the shell that was on Oracle).

A screen shot shared by one of the hackers involved in compromising Oracle’s MICROS support portal. This screen shot was taken of a similar Web shell the hackers placed on the Web site of another POS provider (this is not the shell that was on Oracle).

According to the chat log, the hacker broke in by exploiting a file-upload function built into the MICROS customer support portal. From there the attackers were able to upload an attack tool known as a “WSO Web Shell.” This is a crude but effective text-based control panel that helps the attacker install additional attack tools to harvest data from the compromised Web server (see screen shot above). The beauty of a Web shell is that the attacker can control the infected site using nothing more than a Web browser, using nothing more than a hidden login page and a password that only he knows.

The two hackers discussed and both viewed more than a half-dozen files that were apparently left behind on the MICROS portal by the WSO shell they uploaded in mid-July (most of the malicious files ended in the file extension “wso.aspx”). The chat logs show the pair of miscreants proceeding to target another 9 online payment providers or point-of-sale vendors.

Some of those companies were quoted in the Forbes piece having acknowledged a breach similar to the Web shell attack at Oracle. But none of them have anywhere near the size of Oracle’s MICROS customer base.


Oracle maintains in its FAQ (PDF) about the MICROS attack that “Oracle’s Corporate network and Oracle’s other cloud and service offerings were not impacted.” But a confidential source within Oracle’s Hospitality Division told KrebsOnSecurity that the breach first started in one of Oracle’s major point-of-sale data centers — specifically the company’s large data center in Manassas, Va.

According to my source, that particular center helps large Oracle hospitality industry clients manage their fleets of MICROS point-of-sale devices.

“Initially, the customer’s network and the internal Oracle network were on the same network,” said my source, who spoke under condition of anonymity because he did not have permission from his employer to speak on the record. “The networking team did a network segmentation of these two networks — ironically for security purposes. However, it seems as if what they have done actually allowed access from the Russian Cybercrime group.”

My source said that in mid-July 2016 Oracle sent out an email alert to employees of its hospitality division that they had to re-image their laptops without backing anything up.

“All of the files and software that were on an employee’s computer were deleted, which was crippling to business operations,” my source recalled. “Project management lost all their schedules, deployment teams lost all the software that they use to install on customer sites. Oracle did not tell the employees in this email that they got hacked but just to re-image everything with no backups. It seems as if Oracle did a pretty good job sweeping this incident under the rug. Most employees don’t know about the hack and it hasn’t been a huge deal to the customers. However, it is estimated that this cost them billions, so it is a really major breach.”

I sent Oracle a litany of questions based on the above, but a spokesperson for the company said Oracle would comment on none of it.

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  1. VISA should have checked with Micros about that before issuing guidance on changing default passwords. When I ran security in a retail org, we had very widely used product of theirs. During testing, red team filched a bunch of default creds, but there were several hard coded into the application that support informed us we could not change.

    • Hardcoded? Then that is just stupid, and could be a reason why the system was compromised in the first place.

      • Welcome to retail. Point of Sale systems are absolutely terrible. Hard coded passwords, requirements of running as administrator, default logins, shared accounts, etc, etc, etc..

        • Had a program that required local admin access to run. Complained to the vendor. They said I shouldn’t be worried because it only needed admin access on the computer, not the network. When I pointed out that local admin access allows for the possibility of loading software that can monitor the network or do other things I didn’t want, they said I was over concerned.

  2. So am I to understand that this may be the biggest POS breach up till now? Maybe I’m reading too much into the article; perhaps that may not be known for some time.

  3. “I sent Oracle a litany of questions based on the above, but a spokesperson for the company said Oracle would comment on none of it.”

    What? I was waiting for at least a “…at Oracle we take your security seriously…..”

    I need a good laugh.

  4. Why would anyone trust Oracle after this. If I’m a consumer, I’m going to a hotel, restaurant, retailer that is not a customer or not using Oracle. If you are a retailer, hospitality or any other sector for that manner, you would be stupid to use a solution from Oracle after this.

    They knew they were breached, knew their customers were at risk of intrusion by means not requiring exploitation (hackers had account and passwords for remote login to customer networks, bypassing any security products those retailers and hotels have paid millions for), fixed themselves, and THEN at their convenience, decided to quietly tell their customers but did not arm them with the hacker signatures needed to protect themselves or even search for previous access so they could provide responsible disclosure to states, customers, card brands and potentially get additional fines because of delay.

    Is Oracle going to have to testify in front of Congress like Target did? Is the president going to make comment that tech companies need to notify customers faster? Or, since they are not a retailer, everything goes silent until the next time Home Depot is breached?

    • Don’t people go to jail for stuff like this? Witholding information on related to an active crime…actually multiple crimes to their customers and their consumers? I have heard nothing about law enforcement involvement (decline comment due to active law enforcement investigation), this has nothing to do with national security.

      Where is the FBI? Unless Hillary Clinton is involved with Oracle somehow or on their board, then this is would be a waste of time

      • No one is responsible for anything anymore.

        No one will hold adobe’s feet to fire and make them pay for all the damages they knowingly create. Who will hold Microsoft, or Sony, or HP, or Oracle responsible for this or anything they do? What entity (public or private) represents the end of the road for the destruction, criminal activity, malice, and fraud that take place as a direct result of what these companies do? that’s not to mention the never-ending levels of grief, frustration, and anxiety that gets created among the general populous.

        The truth is, most people look at these companies and see nothing wrong at all. Most people will be more inclined to dismiss all these little issues as hickups just because of the idea that we all need them so much. The average person will go to Oracle and get updates to their software instead of removing it.

        We all know Flash is an issues but no one wants to get rid of it or hold Adobe responsible for anything more than updates to it.

        “Don’t people go to jail for stuff like this? Witholding information on related to an active crime…actually multiple crimes to their customers and their consumers?”

        Yes, but who or what will press charges?

    • Good Luck in finding that hotel. Micros, who owns Fidelio / Opera is the most widely deployed Hotel PMS (Property management syste) on the globe. Marriott, Hilton, and god knows who else. MICROS POS is also the 800 pound gorilla in the POS space.

  5. Just more proof that if you don’t try to make every debit or credit payment using a tokenized set-up* like Apple Pay or its competitors, you are setting yourself up for headaches.

    *With device unique card numbers working with an automatically generated, automatically entered, single-use PIN code.

    • I don’t know nuttin’ about Apple Pay, however I just want to say that for one particularly sensitive web site I use, I’ve got a little thingy on my keyring that I have to press a button on each time I’m gonna log in, and this thingy gives me a seeming random (but cryptographically generated) six-digit code that I have to punch in in order to log in.

      I believe that systems based on a password *and* a code from this pocket crypto device are are fundamentally very secure. I *am* aware, thank to Brian, that there was at least one occasion where a big batch of these devices was in fact compromised, but my hope that that that was a lesson learned, and that it won’t happen again.

      Bottom line: I wish to god that my credit card company would at least offer me the option of obtaining one of those pocket crypto devices to go with my credit card, you know, so that the card number, by itself (and even with the CVV) just wouldn’t work without an associated one-time magic crypto cookie. But they DON’T offer that, even as an option for paranoid customers like me, and as far as I know, *no* credit card companies do. This is a cryin’ shame. I guess I need to talk to my congressman about this, cuz the card companies, left to their own devices, apparently won’t ever offer this, even as an option, ever. I guess they are worried that even offering the option will scare some people and make the populace just question the security of credit cards even more than they already do.

      I keep hoping that the credit card industry will get a big wake-up call on security. Maybe this Oracle thing is it, but I doubt it. They… the credit card companies… are in denial.

      • My sense is that the credit card companies don’t care: all they ever say when your card is frauded is: don’t worry about it you’re not liable for the theft, here’s the stolen money put back on to your card.

        Meanwhile do you REALLY think they just eat the costs of fraud? I highly doubt it and would really enjoy seeing all the ways in which they recoup them along with how much of that affects cardholders in indirect ways.

        Once one has seen that the lack of action would probably start to make sense, would be my guess.

      • Ron,

        Most credit card companies have some form of 2-factor authentication. Not all have the hardware devices that you use (I use that device myself for EBAY and PAYPAL), but they usually have some form of additional authentication.

        My credit card website asks for a password. After that is entered correctly, I am prompted to send a code to either my email address or phone number. If either of those things are compromised, then the 2nd authentication is no good. But I think this extra step will deter at least some crooks.

        Maybe your credit card company has something like this (single-use code sent to email or phone)? Probably not as good as a hardware device with a one-time code that keeps changing, but much better than no secondary authentication.

      • That little 6 digit generated key is pretty cool, but I remember RSA’s SecurID being hacked in 2011 and RSA replacing all of the SecurIds then in the field, so nothing is completely foolproof.

  6. Trump. Loundring russian criminas money its know alllready! So its simple hand wash hands. …even you look russian site verified.cm mn now you see alot work related with usa so usa is main catders fraud country its easy to see

  7. I’m wondering if we will ever hear about the industry (banks, credit unions, card networks, retailers vs Oracle) class action against Oracle.

  8. Another day, another “we value your custom, we recommend changing your passwords, move along, nothing to see here, pay no attention to the man behind the (iron) curtain”…

    Is it that they’re afraid of giving lawyers ammunition to sue? The whole hiding what went wrong thing and wrapping what explanations they do offer in condescension and BS is downright irritating.

    How did it happen?
    Have they mitigated how it happened?
    What are they doing to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

  9. Unbreakable, Can’t break in. We remember nothing.

  10. A bit obscure so here is a link to securityfocus.com/news/309

    • Thanks kopecky! Good link to the past…looks like Mr Ellison still uses similar advertising executives.

  11. I wonder how hard the perpetrators laugh, when they read the comments of outrage and futility. Let’s step up our game and respond to the breach with better protocols, systems and monitoring processes. Plastic replaced paper for a reason. Digital currency will substantive replace plastic. Rather than “move on” let’s advance.

    • The only way to win is to not play.

      The more money that the general population gives to companies, the more of that money goes to help grow the bank accounts of the bad guys. If you must patronize these companies, use cash.

      It is better to NOT have Java installed at all than to update it. It’s the same with Flash, ActiveX, and even IE. You can have access to the Playstation Network if you want it. Just know that it does come with certain risks. Just like Steam, Facebook, Twitter, Windows, Itunes, and HP computers.

      MySpace failed because barely anyone uses it anymore. The same thing could happen to Oracle if people would just stop using their software. The thing is….that can’t happen because very few people in this world seem to care at all for learning much about computers. It has all become someone else’s responsibility.

      It does not matter if your Trump Tower, Hilton, or anyone else. The thinking put to it is “I’m in the hotel business….what do I know from computers? That’s what I pay that other company for.” But, It’s exactly the same thing for most people in their living room (or where ever) with their desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. It’s exactly the same when it’s about spreadsheets, social media, and family photo albums.

      There are reasons why so much of this stuff is ‘free to use’.

      There is no lawsuit that will fix any of this. The only way to fix these things is to not use any of it. If you don’t trust non-chipped card readers, then don’t patronize business’s that that are swipe-only. If you don’t like what’s on tv, then change the channel, turn it off, or don’t buy that new tv. Quit complaining about your computer getting infected through Flash or Java….get rid of it and stop going to websites that require it.

    • “Digital currency will substantive replace plastic.”

      If true, then God help us all!


  12. Oracle appears to have broken California’s requirements [*] for reporting data breaches.

    In Oracle’s defense, their “POS system” might have been designed to comply with a vernacular definition. [ http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=pos ].

    [*] http://www.bna.com/new-california-data-n57982067883/

  13. Actually, it sounds like Krebs might have more to fear from the lawyers for antagonized corporations than the crooks. It also sounds as if consumers are paying inflated prices to cover corporat