Posts Tagged: FIS

Mar 18

What Is Your Bank’s Security Banking On?

A large number of banks, credit unions and other financial institutions just pushed customers onto new e-banking platforms that asked them to reset their account passwords by entering a username plus some other static identifier — such as the first six digits of their Social Security number (SSN), or a mix of partial SSN, date of birth and surname. Here’s a closer look at what may be going on (spoiler: small, regional banks and credit unions have grown far too reliant on the whims of just a few major online banking platform providers).

You might think it odd that any self-respecting financial institution would seek to authenticate customers via static data like partial SSN for passwords, and you’d be completely justified for thinking that, too. Nobody has any business using these static identifiers for authentication because they are for sale on most Americans quite cheaply in the cybercrime underground. The Equifax breach might have “refreshed” some of those data stores for identity thieves, but most U.S. adults have had their static details (DOB/SSN/MMN, address, previous address, etc) on sale for years now.

On Feb. 16, KrebsOnSecurity reader Brent Hoeft shared a copy of an email he’d just received from his financial institution Associated Bank, which at $30+ billion in assets happens to be Wisconsin’s largest by asset size.

The notice advised:

“Please read and save this information (including the password below) to prepare for your online and mobile banking upgrade.

Our refreshed online and mobile banking experience is officially launching on Monday, February 26, 2018.

We’re excited to share it with you, and want you to be aware of some important details about the transition.


Use this temporary password the first time you sign in after the upgrade. Your temporary password is the first four letters of your last name plus the last four digits of your Social Security Number.

XXXX#### [redacted by me but included in the email]

Note: your password is all lowercase without spaces.

Once the upgrade is complete, you will need your temporary password to begin the re-enrollment process.
• Beginning Monday, February 26, you will need to sign in using your existing user ID and the temporary password included above in this email. Please note that you are only required to reenroll in online or mobile banking but can access both using the same user ID and password.
• Once you sign in, you will be prompted to create a new password and establish other security features. Your user ID will remain the same.”

Hoeft said Associated Bank seems to treat the customer username as a secret, something to be protected along with the password.

“I contacted Associated’s customer service via email and received a far less satisfying explanation that the user name is required for re-activation and, that since [the username] was not provided in the email, the process they are using is in fact secure,” Hoeft said.

After speaking with Hoeft, I tweeted about whether to name and shame the bank before it was too late, or perhaps to try and talk some sense into them privately. Most readers advised that calling attention to the problem before the transition could cause more harm than good, and that at least until after Feb. 26 contacting some of the banks privately was the best idea (which is what I did).

Associated Bank wouldn’t say who their new consumer online banking platform provider was, but they did say it was one of the big ones. I took that to mean either FIS, Fiserv or Jack Henry, which collectively control approximately 70 percent of the market for bank core processors (according to, Fiserv is by far the largest).


The bank’s chief information security officer Joe Smits said Associated’s new consumer online banking platform provider required that new and existing customers log in with a username and a temporary password — which was described as choice among secondary, static data elements about customers — such as the first six digits of the customer’s SSN or date of birth.

Smits added that the bank originally started emailing customers the instructions for figuring out their temporary passwords, but then decided US mail would be a safer option and sent the rest out that way. He said only about 15 percent of Associated Bank customers (~50,000) received instructions about their temporary passwords through email.

I followed up with Hoeft to find out how his online banking upgrade went at Associated Bank. He told me that upon visiting the site, it asked for his username and the temporary password (the first four letters of his last name and the last four digits of his SSN).

“After entering that I was told to re-enter my temporary password and then create a new password,” Hoeft said. “I then was asked to select 5 security questions and provide answers. Next I was asked for a verification phone number. Upon entering that I received a text message with a 4 digit verification code. After entering the code it asked me to finish my profile information including name, email and daytime phone. After that it took me right into my online banking account.”

Hoeft said it seems like the “verification” step that was supposed to create an extra security check didn’t really add any security at all.

“If someone were able to get in with the temporary password, they would be able to create a new password, fill out all the security code information, and then provide their phone number to receive the verification code,” Hoeft said. “Armed with the verification code they then would be able to get right into my online banking account.” Continue reading →

Jun 15

A Busy Week for Ne’er-Do-Well News

We often hear about the impact of cybercrime, but too seldom do we read about the successes that law enforcement officials have in apprehending those responsible and bringing them to justice. Last week was an especially busy time for cybercrime justice, with authorities across the globe bringing arrests, prosecutions and some cases stiff sentences in connection with a broad range of cyber crimes, including ATM and bank account cashouts, malware distribution and “swatting” attacks.

Ercan Findikoglu, posing with piles of cash.

Ercan Findikoglu, posing with piles of cash.

Prosecutors in New York had a big week. Appearing in the U.S. court system for the first time last week was Ercan “Segate” Findikoglu, a 33-year-old Turkish man who investigators say was the mastermind behind a series of Oceans 11-type ATM heists between 2011 and 2013 that netted thieves more than $55 million.

According to prosecutors, Findikoglu organized the so-called “ATM cashouts” by hacking into networks of several credit and debit card payment processors. With each processor, the intruders were able to simultaneously lift the daily withdrawal limits on numerous prepaid accounts and dramatically increase the account balances on those cards to allow ATM withdrawals far in excess of the legitimate card balances.

The cards were then cloned and sent to dozens of co-conspirators around the globe, who used the cards at ATMs to withdraw millions in cash in the span of just a few hours. Investigators say these attacks are known in the cybercrime underground as “unlimited operations” because the manipulation of withdrawal limits lets the crooks steal literally unlimited amounts of cash until the operation is shut down.

Two of the attacks attributed to Findikoglu and his alleged associates were first reported on this blog, including a February 2011 attack against Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), and a $5 million heist in late 2012 involving a card network in India. The most brazen and lucrative heist, a nearly $40 million cashout against the Bank of Muscat in Oman, was covered in a May 2013 New York Times piece, which concludes with a vignette about the violent murder of alleged accomplice in the scheme.

Also in New York, a Manhattan federal judge sentenced the co-creator of the “Blackshades” Trojan to nearly five years in prison after pleading guilty to helping hundreds of people use and spread the malware. Twenty-five year old Swedish national Alexander Yucel was ordered to forfeit $200,000 and relinquish all of the computer equipment he used in commission of his crimes.

As detailed in this May 2014 piece, Blackshades Users Had It Coming, the malware was sophisticated but marketed mainly on English language cybecrime forums to young men who probably would have a hard time hacking their way out of a paper bag, let alone into someone’s computer. Initially sold via PayPal for just $40, Blackshades offered users a way to remotely spy on victims, and even included tools and tutorials to help users infect victim PCs. Many of Yucel’s customers also have been rounded up by law enforcement here in the U.S. an abroad. Continue reading →

Jun 13

FDIC: 2011 FIS Breach Worse Than Reported

A 2011 hacker break-in at banking industry behemoth Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) was far more extensive and serious than the company disclosed in public reports, banking regulators warned FIS customers last month. The disclosure highlights a shocking lack of basic security protections throughout one of the nation’s largest financial services providers.

fisJacksonville, Fla. based FIS is one of the largest information processors for the banking industry today, handling a range of services from check and credit card processing to core banking functions for more than 14,000 financial institutions in over 100 countries.

The company came under heavy scrutiny from banking industry regulators in the first quarter of 2011, when hackers who had broken into its networks used that access to orchestrate a carefully-timed, multi-million dollar ATM heist. In that attack, the hackers raised or eliminated the daily withdrawal limits for 22 debit cards they’d obtained from FIS’s prepaid card network. The fraudsters then cloned the cards and distributed them to co-conspirators who used them to pull $13 million in cash from FIS via ATMs in several major cities across Europe, Russia and Ukraine.

FIS first publicly reported broad outlines of the breach in a May 3, 2011 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), stating that it had identified “7,170 prepaid accounts may have been at risk and that three individual cardholders’ non-public information may have been disclosed as a result of the unauthorized activities.” FIS told the SEC it worked with the impacted clients to take appropriate action, including blocking and reissuing cards for the affected accounts. “The Company has taken steps to further enhance security and continues to work with Federal law enforcement officials on this matter,” it declared in its filing.

FIS’s disclosure to investors cast the breach as limited in scope, saying the break-in was restricted to unauthorized activity at a portion of its network belonging to a small prepaid debit card provider that it acquired in 2007.  But bank examiners at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) who audited FIS’s operations in the months following the 2011 breach and again in October 2012 came to a very different conclusion: According to a report that the FDIC sent May 24, 2013 to hundreds of FIS’s customer banks and obtained by KrebsOnSecurity, the 2011 breach was much larger than previously reported.

“The initial findings have identified many additional servers exposed by the attackers; and many more instances of the malware exploits utilized in the network intrusions of 2011, which were never properly identified or assessed,”  the FDIC examiners wrote in a report from October 2012. “As a result, FIS management now recognizes that the security breach events of 2011 were not just a pre-paid card fraud event, as originally maintained, but rather are that of a broader network intrusion.”

Indeed, the FDIC’s examiners found that there was scarcely a portion of the FIS network that the hackers did not touch.

“From review of the previous investigation reports, along with other documentation provided by FIS, examiners and payment card industry experts identified over 2,000 touch points that indicated a broad exposure of internal FIS systems and client related data,” the report notes. “These systems include, but are not limited to, the The New York Currency Exchange ATM network, prime core application systems, and various Internet banking, ACH, and wire transfer systems. These touch points also indicated approximately 100 client financial institutions, which appear to have had sensitive data exposed by the attackers.”


A screen shot of an excerpt from the FDIC report on security lapses at FIS.

In an emailed statement, FIS maintained that “no client of FIS suffered any monetary loss as a result of the incident, and stressed that the report is based upon a review that was completed in October 2012.

“Since that time, FIS has continued to strengthen its information security and risk position, including investments over two years of $100 million or more, as part of our goal to provide best-in-class information security and risk management to each of our 14,000-plus clients. We have openly and regularly communicated these initiatives, our progress and results to our clients and shareholders through meetings, monthly updates, quarterly public disclosures, Board materials, educational webinars, and more.”


Nevertheless, investors may be less than pleased about how FIS is spending its security dollars. The FDIC found that even though FIS has hired a number of incident response firms and has spent more than $100 million responding to the 2011 breach, the company failed to enact some very basic security mechanisms. For example, the FDIC noted that FIS routinely uses blank or default passwords on numerous production systems and network devices, even though these were some of the same weaknesses that “contributed to the speed and ease with which attackers transgressed and exposed FIS systems during the 2011 network intrusion.”

“Many FIS systems remain configured with default passwords, no passwords, non-complex passwords, and non-expiring passwords,” the FDIC wrote. “Enterprise vulnerability scans in November 2012, noted over 10,000 instances of default passwords in use within the FIS environment.”

The bank auditors also found “a high number of unresolved network and application vulnerabilities remain throughout the enterprise.

“The Executive Summary Scan reports from November 2012 show 18,747 network vulnerabilities and over 291 application vulnerabilities as past due,” the report charges.

What’s more, investigators probing the breach at FIS may have been denied key clues about the source of the intrusion because FIS incident response personnel wiped many of the compromised systems and put them back on the network before the machines could be properly examined.

“Many systems were re-constituted and introduced back into the production environment before data preservation techniques were applied,” the report notes. “Additionally, poor forensic preservation techniques led to numerous servers being re-imaged before analysis was completed and significant logging data was inadvertently destroyed. Several servers, key to the investigation process, were re-introduced into the production environment and subsequently re-compromised due to misconfigured baselines and inadequate security testing outside of corporate policy.”

Continue reading →

Feb 13

Crooks Net Millions in Coordinated ATM Heists

Organized cyber criminals stole almost $11 million in two highly coordinated ATM heists in the final days of 2012, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. The events prompted Visa to warn U.S. payment card issuers to be on high-alert for additional ATM cash-out fraud schemes in the New Year.

atmafterdarkAccording to sources in the financial industry and in law enforcement, the thieves first struck on Christmas Eve 2012. Using a small number of re-loadable prepaid debit cards tied to accounts that they controlled, scammers began pulling cash out of ATMs in at least a dozen countries. Within hours, the perpetrators had stolen approximately $9 million.

Then, just prior to New Year’s Eve, the fraudsters struck again, this time attacking a card network in India and making off with slightly less than $2 million, investigators say.

The accounts that the perpetrators used to withdraw money from ATMs were tied to re-loadable prepaid debit cards, which can be replenished with additional funds once depleted. Prepaid card networks generally enforce low-dollar limits that restrict the amounts customers can withdraw from associated accounts in a 24 hour period. But in both ATM heists, sources said, the crooks were able to increase or eliminate the withdrawal limits for the prepaid accounts they controlled.

Shortly after the second heist, Visa released a private alert to payment card issuers, warning them to be on the lookout for additional ATM mega-heists over the New Years holiday. Sources say Visa’s alert was indeed prompted by the multi-million dollar heists at the end of December.

The Visa alert (PDF), sent to card issuers at the beginning of January 2013, warns:

“Visa has been alerted to new cases where ATM Cash-Out frauds have been attempted and successfully completed by organized criminal groups across the globe. In a recently reported  case, criminals used a small number of cards to conduct 1000’s of ATM withdrawals in multiple  countries around the world in one weekend.”

“These attacks result from hackers gaining access to issuer authorization systems and card parameter information. Once inside, the hackers manipulate daily withdrawal amount limits, card balances and other card parameters to facilitate massive fraud on individual cards. In some instances over $500K USD has been withdrawn on a single card in less than 24 hours.”

Continue reading →

Aug 11

Coordinated ATM Heist Nets Thieves $13M

An international cybercrime gang stole $13 million from a Florida-based financial institution earlier this year, by executing a highly-coordinated heist in which thieves used ATMs around the globe to cash out stolen prepaid debit cards, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.

Jacksonville based Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (FIS) bills itself as the world’s largest processor of prepaid debit cards; FIS claims to process more than 775 million transactions annually. The company disclosed the breach in its first quarter earnings statement issued May 3, 2011. But details of the attack remained shrouded in secrecy as the FBI and forensic investigators probed one of the biggest and most complex banking heists of its kind.

FIS said it had incurred a loss of approximately $13 million related to unauthorized activities involving one client and 22 prepaid cards on its Sunrise, Fla. based eFunds Prepaid Solutions, formerly WildCard Systems Inc., which was acquired by FIS in 2007.

FIS stated: “The Company has identified that 7,170 prepaid accounts may have been at risk and that three individual cardholders’ non-public information may have been disclosed as a result of the unauthorized activities. FIS worked with the impacted clients to take appropriate action, including blocking and reissuing cards for the affected accounts. The Company has taken steps to further enhance security and continues to work with Federal law enforcement officials on this matter.” The disclosure was scarcely noted by news media.

KrebsOnSecurity recently discovered previously undisclosed details of the successful escapade. According to sources close to the investigation, cyber thieves broke into the FIS network and targeted the Sunrise platform’s “open-loop” prepaid debit cards. The balances on these prepaid cards aren’t stored on the cards themselves; rather, the card numbers correspond to records in a central database, where the balances are recorded. Some prepaid cards cannot be used once their balance has been exhausted, but the prepaid cards used in this attack can be replenished by adding funds. Prepaid cards usually limit the amounts that cardholders can withdraw from a cash machine within a 24 hour period.

Apparently, the crooks were able to drastically increase or eliminate the withdrawal limits for 22 prepaid cards that they had obtained. The fraudsters then cloned the prepaid cards, and distributed them to co-conspirators in several major cities across Europe, Russia and Ukraine.

Continue reading →