Posts Tagged: Sally Beauty breach

Dec 15

When Undercover Credit Card Buys Go Bad

I recently heard from a source in law enforcement who had a peculiar problem. The source investigates cybercrime, and he was reaching out for advice after trying but failing to conduct undercover buys of stolen credit cards from a well-known underground card market. Turns out, the cybercrime bazaar’s own security system triggered a “pig alert” and brazenly flagged the fed’s transactions as an undercover purchase placed by a law enforcement officer.

Law enforcement officials and bank anti-fraud specialists sometimes purchase stolen cards from crime forums and “carding” markets online in hopes of identifying a pattern among all the cards from a given batch that might make it easy to learn who got breached: If all of the cards from a given batch were later found to be used at the same e-commerce or brick-and-mortar merchant over the same time period, investigators can often determine the source of the card breach, alert the breached company and stem the flow of stolen cards.

Of course, such activity is not something the carding shops take lightly, since it tends to cut into their criminal sales and revenues. So it is that one of the more popular carding shops — Rescator — somehow enacted a system to detect purchases from suspected law enforcement officials. Rescator and his crew aren’t shy about letting you know when they think you’re not a real criminal. My law enforcement source said he’d just placed a batch of cards into his shopping cart and was preparing to pay for the goods when the carding site’s checkout page was replaced with this image:

A major vendor of stolen credit cards tries to detect suspicious transactions by law enforcement officials. When it does, it triggers this "pig detected" alert.

A major vendor of stolen credit cards tries to detect suspicious transactions by law enforcement officials. When it does, it triggers this “pig detected” alert.

The shop from which my source attempted to make the purchase — called Rescator — is the same carding store that was the first to move millions of cards on sale that were stolen in the Target and Home Depot breaches, among others. I’ve estimated that although Rescator and his band of thieves stole 40 million credit and debit card numbers from Target, they only likely managed to sell between 1 and 3 million of those cards. Even so, at a median price of $26.85 per card and the median loss of 2 million cards, that’s still more than $50 million in revenue. It’s no wonder they want to keep the authorities out. Continue reading →

May 15

Deconstructing the 2014 Sally Beauty Breach

This week, nationwide beauty products chain Sally Beauty disclosed that, for the second time in a year, it was investigating reports that hackers had broken into its networks and stolen customer credit card data. That investigation is ongoing, but I recently had an opportunity to interview a former Sally Beauty IT technician who provided a first-hand look at how the first breach in 2014 went down.

sallybOn March 14, 2014, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news that some 260,000 credit cards stolen from Sally Beauty stores had gone up for sale on Rescator[dot]cc, the same shop that first debuted cards stolen in the Home Depot and Target breaches. The company said thieves made off with just 25,000 customer cards. But the shop selling the cards listed each by the ZIP code of the Sally Beauty store from which the card data had been stolen, exactly like this same shop did with Home Depot and Target. An exhaustive analysis of the ZIP codes represented in the cards for sale on the fraud shop indicated that the hackers had hit virtually all 2,600 Sally Beauty locations nationwide.

The company never disclosed additional details about the breach itself or how it happened. But earlier this week I spoke with Blake Curlovic, until recently an application support analyst at Sally Beauty who was among the first to respond when virtual alarm bells starting going off last year about a possible intrusion. Curlovic said that at the time, Sally Beauty was running exactly one enterprise solution for security — Tripwire (full disclosure: Tripwire is an advertiser on this blog). Tripwire’s core product monitors key operating system and application files for any changes, which then triggers alerts.

Tripwire fired a warning when the intruders planted a new file on point-of-sale systems within Sally Beauty’s vast network of cash registers. The file was a program designed to steal card numbers as they were being swiped through the registers, and the attackers had named their malware after a legitimate program running on all Sally Beauty registers. They also used a utility called Timestomp to change the date and time stamp on their malware to match the legitimate file, but that apparently didn’t fool Tripwire.

According to Curlovic, the intruders gained access through a Citrix remote access portal set up for use by employees who needed access to company systems while on the road.

“The attackers somehow had login credentials of a district manager,” Curlovic said. “This guy was not exactly security savvy. When we got his laptop back in, we saw that it had his username and password taped to the front of it.”

Once inside the Sally Beauty corporate network, the attackers scanned and mapped out the entire thing, located all shared drives and scoured those for Visual Basic (VB) scripts. Network administrators in charge of managing thousands or tens of thousands of systems often will write VB scripts to automate certain tasks across all of those systems, and very often those scripts will contain usernames and passwords that can be quite useful to attackers.

Curlovic said the intruders located a VB script on Sally Beauty’s network that contained the username and password of a network administrator at the company.

“That allowed them to basically copy files to the cash registers,” he said. “They used a simple batch file loop, put in all the [cash] register Internet addresses they found while scanning the network, looped through there and copied [the malware] to all of the point-of-sale devices — roughly 6,000 of them. They were in the network for like a week prior to that planning the attack.”

Continue reading →

May 15

Sally Beauty Card Breach, Part Deux?

For the second time in a year, nationwide beauty products chain Sally Beauty Holdings Inc. says it is investigating reports of unusual credit and debit card activity at some of its U.S. stores.

Last week, KrebsOnSecurity began hearing from multiple financial institutions about a pattern of fraudulent charges on cards that were all recentlysally used at Sally Beauty locations in various states. Reached for comment on Sunday about the fraud pattern suggesting yet another card breach at the beauty products chain, Sally Beauty issued the following statement this morning:

“Sally Beauty Holdings, Inc. is currently investigating reports of unusual activity involving payment cards used at some of our U.S. Sally Beauty stores. Since learning of these reports, we have been working with law enforcement and our credit card processor and have launched a comprehensive investigation with the help of a leading third-party forensics expert to aggressively gather facts while working to ensure our customers are protected. Until this investigation is completed, it is difficult to determine with certainty the scope or nature of any potential incident, but we will continue to work vigilantly to address any potential issues that may affect our customers.”

Their statement continues: “Consistent with our ‘Love it or Return It’ policy, customer security and confidence remains our number one priority. As a result, we encourage any customer who is concerned about the security of their payment cards to call our Customer Service Hotline at 1-866-234-9442, so that we can assist them in addressing any potential concerns. Sally Beauty will, as appropriate, provide updates as we learn more from our investigation.”

In addition, the company also sent out an urgent alert today to its employees, asking associates to direct any customers with credit card issues to the Sally Beauty Web site or to call customer service. “We hadn’t gotten an email like that since last year when we had our breach,” the Sally Beauty employee said on condition of anonymity. Continue reading →

Sep 14

Data: Nearly All U.S. Home Depot Stores Hit

New data gathered from the cybercrime underground suggests that the apparent credit and debit card breach at Home Depot involves nearly all of the company’s stores across the nation.

Evidence that a major U.S. retailer had been hacked and was leaking card data first surfaced Tuesday on the cybercrime store rescator[dot]cc, the shop that was principally responsible for selling cards stolen in the Target, Sally Beauty, P.F. Chang’s and Harbor Freight credit card breaches.

As with cards put up for sale in the wake of those breaches, Rescator’s shop lists each card according to the city, state and ZIP code of the store from which each card was stolen. See this story for examples of this dynamic in the case of Sally Beauty, and this piece that features the same analysis on the stolen card data from the Target breach.

Stolen credit cards for sale on Rescator's site index each card by the city, state and ZIP of the retail store from which each card was stolen.

Stolen credit cards for sale on Rescator’s site index each card by the city, state and ZIP of the retail store from which each card was stolen.

The ZIP code data allows crooks who buy these cards to create counterfeit copies of the credit and debit cards, and use them to buy gift cards and high-priced merchandise from big box retail stores. This information is extremely valuable to the crooks who are purchasing the stolen cards, for one simple reason: Banks will often block in-store card transactions on purchases that occur outside of the legitimate cardholder’s geographic region (particularly in the wake of a major breach).

Thus, experienced crooks prefer to purchase cards that were stolen from stores near them, because they know that using the cards for fraudulent purchases in the same geographic area as the legitimate cardholder is less likely to trigger alerts about suspicious transactions — alerts that could render the stolen card data worthless for the thieves.

This morning, KrebsOnSecurity pulled down all of the unique ZIP codes in the card data currently for sale from the two batches of cards that at least four banks have now mapped back to previous transactions at Home Depot. KrebsOnSecurity also obtained a commercial marketing list showing the location and ZIP code of every Home Depot store across the country.

Here’s the kicker: A comparison of the ZIP code data between the unique ZIPs represented on Rescator’s site, and those of the Home Depot stores shows a staggering 99.4 percent overlap.

Home Depot has not yet said for certain whether it has in fact experienced a store-wide card breach; rather, the most that the company is saying so far is that it is investigating “unusual activity” and that it is working with law enforcement on an investigation. Here is the page that Home Depot has set up for further notices about this investigation.

I double checked the data with several sources, including with Nicholas Weaver, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and at the University California, Berkeley. Weaver said the data suggests a very strong correlation.

“A 99+ percent overlap in ZIP codes strongly suggests that this source is from Home Depot,” Weaver said. Continue reading →

Aug 14

DQ Breach? HQ Says No, But Would it Know?

Sources in the financial industry say they’re seeing signs that Dairy Queen may be the latest retail chain to be victimized by cybercrooks bent on stealing credit and debit card data. Dairy Queen says it has no indication of a card breach at any of its thousands of locations, but the company also acknowledges that nearly all stores are franchises and that there is no established company process or requirement that franchisees communicate security issues or card breaches to Dairy Queen headquarters.

Update, Aug. 28, 12:08 p.m. ET: A spokesman for Dairy Queen has confirmed that the company recently heard from the U.S. Secret Service about “suspicious activity” related to a strain of card-stealing malware found in hundreds of other retail intrusions. Dairy Queen says it is still investigating and working with authorities, and does not yet know how many stores may be impacted.

Original story:

dqI first began hearing reports of a possible card breach at Dairy Queen at least two weeks ago, but could find no corroborating signs of it — either by lurking in shadowy online “card shops” or from talking with sources in the banking industry. Over the past few days, however, I’ve heard from multiple financial institutions that say they’re dealing with a pattern of fraud on cards that were all recently used at various Dairy Queen locations in several states. There are also indications that these same cards are being sold in the cybercrime underground.

The latest report in the trenches came from a credit union in the Midwestern United States. The person in charge of fraud prevention at this credit union reached out wanting to know if I’d heard of a breach at Dairy Queen, stating that the financial institution had detected fraud on cards that had all been recently used at a half-dozen Dairy Queen locations in and around its home state.

According to the credit union, more than 50 customers had been victimized by a blizzard of card fraud just in the past few days alone after using their credit and debit cards at Dairy Queen locations — some as far away as Florida — and the pattern of fraud suggests the DQ stores were compromised at least as far back as early June 2014.

“We’re getting slammed today,” the fraud manager said Tuesday morning of fraud activity tracing back to member cards used at various Dairy Queen locations in the past three weeks. “We’re just getting all kinds of fraud cases coming in from members having counterfeit copies of their cards being used at dollar stores and grocery stores.”

Other financial institutions contacted by this reporter have seen recent fraud on cards that were all used at Dairy Queen locations in Florida and several other states, including Alabama, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

On Friday, Aug. 22, KrebsOnSecurity spoke with Dean Peters, director of communications for the Minneapolis-based fast food chain. Peters said the company had heard no reports of card fraud at individual DQ locations, but he stressed that nearly all of Dairy Queen stores were independently owned and operated. When asked whether DQ had any sort of requirement that its franchisees notify the company in the event of a security breach or problem with their card processing systems, Peters said no.

“At this time, there is no such policy,” Peters said. “We would assist them if [any franchisees] reached out to us about a breach, but so far we have not heard from any of our franchisees that they have had any kind of breach.”

Julie Conroy, research director at the advisory firm Aite Group, said nationwide companies like Dairy Queen should absolutely have breach notification policies in place for franchisees, if for no other reason than to protect the integrity of the company’s brand and public image.

“Without question this is a brand protection issue,” Conroy said. “This goes back to the eternal challenge with all small merchants. Even with companies like Dairy Queen, where the mother ship is huge, each of the individual establishments are essentially mom-and-pop stores, and a lot of these stores still don’t think they’re a target for this type of fraud. By extension, the mother ship is focused on herding a bunch of cats in the form of thousands of franchisees, and they’re not thinking that all of these stores are targets for cybercriminals and that they should have some sort of company-wide policy about it. In fact, franchised brands that have that sort of policy in place are far more the exception than the rule.”


The situation apparently developing with Dairy Queen is reminiscent of similar reports last month from multiple banks about card fraud traced back to dozens of locations of Jimmy John’s, a nationwide sandwich shop chain that also is almost entirely franchisee-owned. Jimmy John’s has said it is investigating the breach claims, but so far it has not confirmed reports of card breaches at any of its 1,900+ stores nationwide.

The DHS/Secret Service advisory.

The DHS/Secret Service advisory.

Rumblings of a card breach involving at least some fraction of Dairy Queen’s 4,500 domestic, independently-run stores come amid increasingly vocal warnings from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service, which last week said that more than 1,000 American businesses had been hit by malicious software designed to steal credit card data from cash register systems.

In that alert, the agencies warned that hackers have been scanning networks for point-of-sale systems with remote access capabilities (think LogMeIn and pcAnywhere), and then installing malware on POS devices protected by weak and easily guessed passwords.  The alert noted that at least seven point-of-sale vendors/providers confirmed they have had multiple clients affected.

Around the time that the Secret Service alert went out, UPS Stores, a subsidiary of the United Parcel Service, said that it scanned its systems for signs of the malware described in the alert and found security breaches that may have led to the theft of customer credit and debit data at 51 UPS franchises across the United States (about 1 percent of its 4,470 franchised center locations throughout the United States). Incidentally, the way UPS handled that breach disclosure — clearly calling out the individual stores affected — should stand as a model for other companies struggling with similar breaches. Continue reading →

Mar 14

ZIP Codes Show Extent of Sally Beauty Breach

Earlier this month, beauty products chain Sally Beauty acknowledged that a hacker break-in compromised fewer than 25,000 customer credit and debit cards. My previous reporting indicated that the true size of the breach was at least ten times larger. The analysis published in this post suggests that the Sally Beauty breach may have impacted virtually all 2,600+ Sally Beauty locations nationwide.

Sally Beauty cards sold under the "Desert Strike" base on Rescator's site.

Sally Beauty cards sold under the “Desert Strike” base on Rescator’s site.

Sally Beauty has declined to speculate on how many stores or total cards may have been exposed by the breach, saying in a statement last week that so far its analysis indicates fewer than 25,000 cards were compromised. But that number seems very conservative when viewed through the prism of data from the cybercriminal shop primarily responsible for selling cards stolen from Sally Beauty customers. Indeed, it suggests that the perpetrators managed to hoover up cards used at nearly all Sally Beauty stores.

The research technique used to arrive at this conclusion was the same method that allowed this reporter and others to conclude that the Target hackers had succeeded at installing card-stealing malware on cash registers at nearly all 1,800 Target locations in the United States.

The first indications of a breach at Target came when millions of cards recently used at the big box retailer started showing up for sale on a crime shop called Rescator[dot]so. This site introduced an innovation that to my knowledge hadn’t been seen before across dozens of similar crime shops in the underground: It indexed stolen cards primarily by the city, state and ZIP code of the Target stores from which each card had been stolen.

This feature was partly what allowed Rescator to sell his cards at much higher prices than other fraud shops, because the ZIP code feature allowed crooks to buy cards from the store that were stolen from Target stores near them (this feature also strongly suggested that Rescator had specific and exclusive knowledge about the breach, a conclusion that has been supported by previous investigations on this blog into the malware used at Target and the Internet history of Rescator himself).

To put the ZIP code innovation in context, the Target break-in came to light just a week before Christmas, and many banks were at least initially reluctant to reissue cards thought to be compromised in the breach because they feared a backlash from consumers who were busy doing last minute Christmas shopping and traveling for the holidays. Rather, many banks in the interim chose to put in place “geo blocks” that would automatically flag for fraud any in-store transactions that were outside the customer’s normal geographic purchasing area. The beauty of Rescator’s ZIP code indexing was that customers could buy only cards that were used at Target stores near them, thereby making it far more likely that Rescator’s customers could make purchases with the stolen cards without setting off geo-blocking limits set by the banks.

To test this theory, researchers compiled a list of the known ZIP codes of Target stores, and then scraped Rescator’s site for a list of the ZIP codes represented in the cards for sale. Although there are more than 43,000 ZIP codes in the United States, slightly fewer than 1,800 unique ZIPs were referenced in the Target cards for sale on Rescator’s shop — roughly equal to the number of Target locations across America.

Sally Beauty declined to provide a list of its various store ZIP codes, but with the assistance of several researchers — none of whom wished to be thanked or cited in this story — I was able to conduct the same analysis with the new batch of cards on Rescator’s site that initially tipped me off to the Sally Beauty breach. The result? There are nearly the exact same number of U.S. ZIP codes represented in the batch of cards for sale on Rescator’s shop as there are unique U.S. ZIP codes of Sally Beauty stores (~2,600).

More importantly, there was a 99.99 percent overlap in the ZIP codes. That strongly suggests that virtually all Sally Beauty stores were compromised by this breach.

Continue reading →

Mar 14

Sally Beauty Confirms Card Data Breach

Nationwide cosmetics and beauty retailer Sally Beauty today confirmed that hackers had broken into its networks and stolen credit card data from stores. The admission comes nearly two weeks after KrebsOnSecurity first reported that the company had likely been compromised by the same criminal hacking gang that stole 40 million credit and debit cards from Target.

The advertisement run by thieves who stole the Sally Beauty card data.

The advertisement run by thieves who stole the Sally Beauty card data.

Previously, Denton, Texas-based Sally Beauty had confirmed a breach, but said it had no evidence that card data was stolen in the break-in. But in a statement issued Monday morning, the company acknowledged it has now discovered evidence that “fewer than 25,000 records containing card present (track 2) payment card data have been illegally accessed on our systems and we believe have been removed.” Their statement continues:

“As experience has shown in prior data security incidents at other companies, it is difficult to ascertain with certainty the scope of a data security breach/incident prior to the completion of a comprehensive forensic investigation. As a result, we will not speculate as to the scope or nature of the data security incident.”

“We take this criminal activity very seriously. We continue to work diligently with Verizon on this investigation and are taking necessary actions and precautions to mitigate and remediate the issues caused by this security incident. In addition, we are working with the United States Secret Service on their preliminary investigation into the matter.”

On Mar. 5, this blog reported that hackers appeared to have broken into Sally Beauty’s network and stolen at least 282,000 cards from the retailer. That conclusion stemmed from purchases made by several banks at an archipelago of fraud sites that have been selling cards stolen in the Target breach. The first new batch of non-Target cards sold by this fraud network — a group of cards marketed under the label “Desert Strike” — all were found by three different financial institutions to have been recently used at Sally Beauty stores nationwide.

Continue reading →

Mar 14

Sally Beauty Hit By Credit Card Breach

Nationwide beauty products chain Sally Beauty appears to be the latest victim of a breach targeting their payment systems in stores, according to both sources in the banking industry and new raw data from underground cybercrime shops that traffic in stolen credit and debit cards.

On March 2, a fresh batch of 282,000 stolen credit and debit cards went on sale in a popular underground crime store. Three different banks contacted by KrebsOnSecurity made targeted purchases from this store, buying back cards they had previously issued to customers.

The card shop Rescator advertising a new batch of cards. 15 cards purchased by banks from of them from this batch all were found to have been recently used at Sally Beauty stores.

The card shop Rescator advertising a new batch of cards. 15 cards purchased by banks from this batch all were found to have been recently used at Sally Beauty stores.

The banks each then sought to determine whether all of the cards they bought had been used at the same merchant over the same time period. This test, known as “common point of purchase” or CPP, is the core means by which financial institutions determine the source of a card breach.

Each bank independently reported that all of the cards (15 in total) had been used within the last ten days at Sally Beauty locations across the United States. Denton, Texas-based Sally Beauty maintains some 2,600 stores, and the company has stores in every U.S. state.

Asked about the banks’ findings, Sally Beauty spokeswoman Karen Fugate said the company recently detected an intrusion into its network, but that neither the company’s information technology experts nor an outside forensics firm could find evidence that customer card data had been stolen from the company’s systems.

Fugate said Sally Beauty uses an intrusion detection product called Tripwire, and that a couple of weeks ago — around Feb. 24 — Tripwire detected activity. Unlike other products that try to detect intrusions based on odd or anomalous network traffic, Tripwire fires off alerts if it detects that certain key system files have been modified.

In response to the Tripwire alert, Fugate said, the company’s information technology department “shut down all external communications” and began an investigation. That included bringing in Verizon Enterprise Solutions, a company often hired to help businesses respond to cyber intrusions.

“Since [Verizon’s] involvement, which has included a deconstruction of the methods used, an examination of network traffic, all our logs and all potentially accessed servers, we found no evidence that any data got out of our stores,” Fugate said. “But our investigation continues, of course with their assistance.”

Continue reading →