Posts Tagged: michaels breach

Dec 14

Gang Hacked ATMs from Inside Banks

An organized gang of hackers from Russia and Ukraine has broken into internal networks at dozens of financial institutions and installed malicious software that allowed the gang to drain bank ATMs of cash. While none of the victim institutions were in the United States or Western Europe, experts say the stealthy methods used by the attackers in these heists would likely work across a broad range of western banks.

robotrobkbMost cybercrime targets consumers and businesses, stealing account information such as passwords and other data that lets thieves cash out hijacked bank accounts, as well as credit and debit cards. But this gang specializes in hacking into banks directly, and then working out ingenious ways to funnel cash directly from the financial institution itself.

A number of the gang’s members are believed to be tied to a group of Eastern European hackers accused of stealing more than USD $2 million from Russian banks using a powerful, custom-made banking trojan known as Carberp. Eight men in Moscow were arrested in 2012 and accused of building and using Carberp, but sources say the core members of the gang were out of jail within hours after their arrest and have been busy rebuilding their crime machine ever since.

According to report released today by Fox-IT and Group-IB, security firms based in The Netherlands and Russia, respectively, the Carberp guys have since changed their tactics: Instead of stealing from thousands of bank account holders, this gang has decided to focus on siphoning funds right out of banks’ coffers. So far, the security firms report, the gang has stolen more than $15 million from Eastern European banks.

To gain a foothold inside financial institutions, this crime group — dubbed the “Anunak group” — sent bank employees targeted, malware-laced emails made to look like the missives were sent by Russian banking regulators. The phishing emails contained malicious software designed to exploit recently-patched security holes in Microsoft Office products.

Incredibly, the group also reportedly bought access to Windows PCs at targeted banks that were already compromised by opportunistic malware spread by other cyber criminals. Indeed, Fox-IT and Group-IB report that the Anunak gang routinely purchased installations of their banking malware from other cybercriminals who operated massive botnets (collections of hacked PCs).

Once inside a financial institution, the criminals typically abused that access to launch even more convincing spear-phishing attacks against other banks. They also gained access to isolated bank network segments that handled ATM transactions, downloading malicious programs made to work specifically with Wincor ATMs. The hackers used that malware — along with a modified legitimate program for managing ATM cash trays — to change the denomination settings for bank notes in 52 different ATMs.

As a result, they were able to make it so that when co-conspirators went to affected ATMs to withdraw 10 bills totaling 100 Russian rubles, they were instead issued 10 bank notes with the denomination of 5,000 rubles, the report notes.

The Anunak gang reportedly modified this legitimate program for managing bill denominations in ATMs.

The Anunak gang reportedly modified this legitimate program for managing bill denominations in ATMs.

Continue reading →

Dec 14

Staples: 6-Month Breach, 1.16 Million Cards

Office supply chain Staples Inc. today finally acknowledged that a malware intrusion this year at some of its stores resulted in a credit card breach. The company now says some 119 stores were impacted between April and September 2014, and that as many as 1.16 million customer credit and debit cards may have been stolen as a result.

staplesKrebsOnSecurity first reported the suspected breach on Oct. 20, 2014, after hearing from multiple banks that had identified a pattern of credit and debit card fraud suggesting that several Staples office supply locations in the Northeastern United States were dealing with a data breach. At the time, Staples would say only that it was investigating “a potential issue” and had contacted law enforcement.

In a statement issued today, Staples released a list of stores (PDF) hit with the card-stealing malware, and the stores are not limited to the Northeastern United States.

“At 113 stores, the malware may have allowed access to this data for purchases made from August 10, 2014 through September 16, 2014,” Staples disclosed. “At two stores, the malware may have allowed access to data from purchases made from July 20, 2014 through September 16, 2014.”

However, the company did say that during the investigation Staples also received reports of fraudulent payment card use related to four stores in Manhattan, New York at various times from April through September 2014. Continue reading →

Nov 14

Link Found in Staples, Michaels Breaches

The breach at office supply chain Staples impacted roughly 100 stores and was powered by some of the same criminal infrastructure seen in the intrusion disclosed earlier this year at Michaels craft stores, according to sources close to the investigation.

staplesMultiple banks interviewed by this author say they’ve received alerts from Visa and MasterCard about cards impacted in the breach at Staples, and that to date those alerts suggest that a subset of Staples stores were compromised between July and September 2014.

Sources briefed on the ongoing investigation say it involved card-stealing malicious software that the intruders installed on cash registers at approximately 100 Staples locations. Framingham, Mass.-based Staples has more than 1,800 stores nationwide.

In response to questions about these details, Staples spokesman Mark Cautela would say only that the company believes it has found and removed the malware responsible for the attack.  Continue reading →

Apr 14

3 Million Customer Credit, Debit Cards Stolen in Michaels, Aaron Brothers Breaches

Nationwide arts and crafts chain Michaels Stores Inc. said today that two separate eight-month-long security breaches at its stores last year may have exposed as many as 3 million customer credit and debit cards.

michaelsThe disclosure, made jointly in a press release posted online and in a statement on the company’s Web site, offers the first real details about the breach since the incident was first disclosed by KrebsOnSecurity on January 25, 2014.

The statements by Irving, Texas-based Michaels suggest that the two independent security firms it hired to investigate the break-ins initially found nothing.

“After weeks of analysis, the Company discovered evidence confirming that systems of Michaels stores in the United States and its subsidiary, Aaron Brothers, were attacked by criminals using highly sophisticated malware that had not been encountered previously by either of the security firms,” the statement reads.

The Michaels breach first came to light just weeks after retail giant Target Corp. said that cyber thieves planted malware on cash registers at its stores across the nation, stealing more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013. That malware was designed to siphon card data when customers swiped their cards at the cash register.

According to Michaels, the affected systems contained certain payment card information, such as payment card number and expiration date, about both Michaels and Aaron Brothers customers. The company says there is no evidence that other customer personal information, such as name, address or debit card PIN, was at risk in connection with this issue.

The company’s statement says the attack on Michaels’ targeted “a limited portion of the point-of-sale systems at a varying number of stores between May 8, 2013 and January 27, 2014.”

“Only a small percentage of payment cards used in the affected stores during the times of exposure were impacted by this issue,” the statement continues. “The analysis conducted by the security firms and the Company shows that approximately 2.6 million cards may have been impacted, which represents about 7% of payment cards used at Michaels stores in the U.S. during the relevant time period. The locations and potential dates of exposure for each affected Michaels store are listed on”

Regarding Aaron Brothers, Michaels Stores said it has confirmed that between June 26, 2013 and February 27, 2014, 54 Aaron Brothers stores were affected by this malware, noting that the locations for each affected Aaron Brothers store are listed on

“The Company estimates that approximately 400,000 cards were potentially impacted during this period. The Company has received a limited number of reports from the payment card brands and banks of fraudulent use of payment cards potentially connected to Michaels or Aaron Brothers.” Continue reading →

Jan 14

Hotel Franchise Firm White Lodging Investigates Breach

White Lodging, a company that maintains hotel franchises under nationwide brands including Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton and Westin appears to have suffered a data breach that exposed credit and debit card information on thousands of guests throughout much of 2013, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.

whitelodgingEarlier this month, multiple sources in the banking industry began sharing data indicating that they were seeing a pattern of fraud on hundreds of cards that were all previously used at Marriott hotels from roughly March 23, 2013 on through the end of last year. But those sames sources said they were puzzled by the pattern of fraud, because it was seen only at specific Marriott hotels, including locations in Austin, Chicago Denver, Los Angeles, Louisville and Tampa.

Turns out, the common thread among all of those Marriott locations is that they are managed by Merrillville, Indiana-based White Lodging Services Corporationwhich bills itself as “a fully-integrated owner, developer and manager of premium brand hotels.” According to the company’s Web site, White Lodging’s property portfolio includes 168 full service hotels in 21 states, with more than 30 restaurants.

White Lodging declined to offer many details, saying in an emailed statement that “an investigation is in progress, and we will provide meaningful information as soon as it becomes available.”

Update: Feb. 7, 9:32 a.m. ET: White Lodging has issued a statement acknowledging a breach at 14 hotels, including Marriott, Starwood, Intercontinental and other brands. Also, NBC is reporting that White Lodging knew about this breach two weeks before this breaking story was first published.

Original story:

Marriott also issued a statement, noting that “one of its franchisees has experienced unusual fraud patterns in connection with its systems that process credit card transactions at a number of hotels across a range of brands, including some Marriott-branded hotels.” The statement continues:

“They are in the midst of the investigation and are in close contact with the banks and credit cards companies.  We are working closely with the franchisee as they investigate the matter.  Because the suspected breach did not impact any systems that Marriott owns or controls, we do not have additional information to provide.  As this impacts customers of Marriott hotels we want to provide assurance that Marriott has a long-standing commitment to protect the privacy of the personal information that our guests entrust to us, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Other hotel chains franchised by White Lodging — including Hilton and Starwood Hotels (which owns the Sheraton and Westin brands) — could not be immediately reached for comment.

Sources say the breach appears to have affected mainly restaurants, gift shops and other establishments within hotels managed by White Lodging — not the property management systems that run the hotel front desk computers which handle guests checking in and out. In the case of Marriott, for example, all Marriott establishments operated as a franchise must use Marriott’s property management system. As a result, the breach impacted only those Marriott guests who used their cards at White Lodging-managed gift shops and restaurants.

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Jan 14

New Clues in the Target Breach

An examination of the malware used in the Target breach suggests that the attackers may have had help from a poorly secured feature built into a widely-used IT management software product that was running on the retailer’s internal network.

As I noted in  Jan. 15’s story — A First Look at the Target Intrusion, Malware — the attackers were able to infect Target’s point-of-sale registers with a malware strain that stole credit and debit card data. The intruders also set up a control server within Target’s internal network that served as a central repository for data hoovered up from all of the infected registers.

According to sources, "ttcopscli3acs" is the name of the Windows share point used by the POS malware planted at Target stores; the username that the thieves used to log in remotely and download stolen card data was "Best1_user"; the password was "BackupU$r"

“ttcopscli3acs” is the name of the Windows share used by the POS malware planted at Target stores; the username that malware used to upload stolen card data was “Best1_user”; the password was “BackupU$r”

That analysis looked at a malware component used in Target breach that was uploaded to Symantec’s ThreatExpert scanning service on Dec. 18 but which was later deleted (a local PDF copy of it is here). The ThreatExpert writeup suggests that the malware was responsible for moving stolen data from the compromised cash registers to that shared central repository, which had the internal address of The “ttcopscli3acs” bit is the Windows domain name used on Target’s network. The user account “Best1_user” and password “BackupU$r” were used to log in to the shared drive (indicated by the “S:” under the “Resource Type” heading in the image above.

That “Best1_user” account name seems an odd one for the attackers to have picked at random, but there is a better explanation: That username is the same one that gets installed with an IT management software suite called Performance Assurance for Microsoft Servers. This product, according to its maker — Houston, Texas base BMC Software — includes administrator-level user account called “Best1_user.”

This knowledge base article (PDF) published by BMC explains the Best1_user account is installed by the software to do routine tasks. That article states that while the Best1_user account is essentially a “system” or “administrator” level account on the host machine, customers shouldn’t concern themselves with this account because “it is not a member of any group (not even the ‘users’ group) and therefore can’t be used to login to the system.”

“The only privilege that the account is granted is the ability to run as a batch job,” the document states, indicating that it could be used to run programs if invoked from a command prompt. Here’s my favorite part:

Perform Technical Support does not have the password to this account and this password has not be released by Perform Development. Knowing the password to the account should not be important as you cannot log into the machine using this account. The password is known internally and used internally by the Perform agent to assume the identity of the “Best1_user” account.”

I pinged BMC to find out if perhaps the password supplied in the Target malware (BackupU$r) is in fact the secret password for the Best1_user account. The company has so far remained silent on this question.

This was the hunch put forward by the Counter Threat Unit (CTU) of Dell SecureWorks in an analysis that was privately released to some of the company’s clients this week.

Relationships between compromised and attacker-controlled assets. Source: Dell Secureworks.

Relationships between compromised and attacker-controlled assets. Source: Dell Secureworks.

“Attackers exfiltrate data by creating a mount point for a remote file share and copying the data stored by the memory-scraping component to that share,” the SecureWorks paper notes. “In the previous listing showing the data’s move to an internal server, is the intermediate server selected by attackers, and CTU researchers believe the “ttcopscli3acs” string is the Windows domain name used on Target’s network. The Best1_user account appears to be associated with the Performance Assurance component of BMC Software’s Patrol product. According to BMC’s documentation, this account is normally restricted, but the attackers may have usurped control to facilitate lateral movement within the network.

According to SecureWorks, one component of the malware installed itself as a service called “BladeLogic,” a service name no doubt designed to mimic another BMC product called BMC BladeLogic Automation Suite. BMC spokeswoman Ann Duhon said that the attackers were simply invoking BMC’s trademark to make the malicious program appear legitimate to the casual observer, but it seems likely that at least some BMC software was running inside of Target’s network, and that the attackers were well aware of it.

Update Jan. 30, 5:48 p.m.: BMC just issued the following statement:

There have been several articles in the press speculating about the Target breach.  BMC Software has received no information from Target or the investigators regarding the breach. In some of those articles, BMC products were mentioned in two different ways.

The first was a mention of a “bladelogic.exe” reference in the attack.   The executable name “bladelogic.exe” does not exist in any piece of legitimate BMC software.  McAfee has issued a security advisory stating that: “The reference to “bladelogic” is a method of obfuscation.  The malware does not compromise, or integrate with, any BMC products in any way.

The second reference was to a password that was possibly utilized as part of the attack, with the implication that it was a BMC password.  BMC has confirmed that the password mentioned in the press is not a BMC-generated password.

At this point, there is nothing to suggest that BMC BladeLogic or BMC Performance Assurance has a security flaw or was compromised as part of this attack.

Malware is a problem for all IT environments. BMC asks all of our customers to be diligent in ensuring that their environments are secure and protected.

I parse their statement to mean that the “BackupU$r” password referenced in the Target malware is not their software’s secret password. But nothing in the statement seems to rule out the possibility that the attackers leveraged a domain user account installed by BMC software to help exfiltrate card data from Target’s network.

Original story:

According to a trusted source who uses mostly open-source data to keep tabs on the software and hardware used in various retail environments, BMC’s software is in use at many major retail and grocery chains across the country, including Kroger, Safeway, Home Depot, Sam’s Club and The Vons Companies, among many others.

A copy of the SecureWorks report is here (PDF). It contains some fairly detailed analysis of this and other portions of the malware used in the Target intrusion. What it states up front that it does not have — and what we still have not heard from Target — is how the attackers broke in to begin with….

Continue reading →

Jan 14

Sources: Card Breach at Michaels Stores

Multiple sources in the banking industry say they are tracking a pattern of fraud on cards that were all recently used at Michaels Stores Inc., an Irving, Texas-based arts-and-crafts retailer that maintains more than 1,250 stores across the United States.

michaelsOn Friday morning, I put a call in to SPM Communications, the public relations company listed as the press contact on After explaining why I was calling, I was referred to a Michael Fox of ICR Inc. When asked what line of business ICR was in, the SPM representative replied that it was a crisis communications firm. Mr. Fox replied via email that he would inquire with Michaels, but so far the company has declined to comment.

Update 1:34 p.m. ET: The U.S. Secret Service confirmed that it is investigating a potential data breach at Michaels. Also, Michaels has just issued a statement stating that it “recently learned of possible fraudulent activity on some U.S. payment cards that had been used at Michaels, suggesting that the Company may have experienced a data security attack.”

The statement continues:

“The Company is working closely with federal law enforcement and is conducting an investigation with the help of third-party data security experts to establish the facts. Although the investigation is ongoing, based on the information the Company has received and in light of the widely-reported criminal efforts to penetrate the data systems of U.S. retailers, Michaels believes it is appropriate to let its customers know a potential issue may have occurred.”

“We are concerned there may have been a data security attack on Michaels that may have affected our customers’ payment card information and we are taking aggressive action to determine the nature and scope of the issue,” said Chuck Rubin, CEO. “While we have not confirmed a compromise to our systems, we believe it is in the best interest of our customers to alert them to this potential issue so they can take steps to protect themselves, for example, by reviewing their payment card account statements for unauthorized charges.”

Their full statement is here (PDF).

Original story:

Sources with four different financial institutions have over the past few days said hundreds of customer cards that recently had been used for fraudulent purchases all traced back to Michaels stores as the common point of purchase.

On Friday, KrebsOnSecurity heard from a fraud analyst at a large credit card processor that was seeing fraud on hundreds of cards over the previous two days that all been recently used at Michaels. The fraudulent purchases on those cards, the source said, took place at the usual big box stores like BestBuy and Target.

“What’s interesting is there’s another [arts and framing] store called Aaron Brothers, and within past week or two there was a lot of activity talking about Aaron Brothers,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “One of the things I learned the other day is that Aaron Brothers is wholly owned by Michael’s. It really does look like kind of the way we saw the Target breach spin up, because the fraud here isn’t limited to one store or one area, it’s been all over the place.”

Assuming my sources are correct and Michaels did have some kind of breach involving payment cards, this would not be the first time. In May 2011, Michaels disclosed that crooks had physically tampered with some point-of-sale devices at store registers in some Chicago locations, although further investigation revealed compromised POS devices in stores across the country, from Washington, D.C. to the West Coast.

It remains unclear what type of compromise may have prompted several banks to identity Michaels as the breached entity. But recent breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus both involved highly sophisticated malicious software that stole credit and debit card information from point-0f-sale registers at those stores. Target has said the breach may have affected more than 40 million customer credit and debit cards, and name, address, email address and phone numbers for at least 70 million customers. Earlier this week, Neiman Marcus revealed that the breach at its stores extended from July 16, 2013 to Oct. 30, 2013, and may have impacted more than 1.1 million customer cards.

According to Fox, ICR Inc. was brought in by Michaels to handle the retailer’s planned transition to a public company. Last month, the company filed paperwork for a potential public offering of its common stock. According to those filings, Michaels generated revenue of $4.41 billion in 2012. Michaels has said the timing, number of shares to be sold and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined.