Feeds

Dexter malware targets point of sale systems worldwide

Payment cards plundered in 40 countries

Security for virtualized datacentres

You could be getting more than you bargained for when you swipe your credit card this holiday shopping season, thanks to new malware that can skim credit card info from compromised point-of-sale (POS) systems.

First spotted by security firm Seculert, the malware dubbed "Dexter" is believed to have infected hundreds of POS systems in 40 countries worldwide in recent months. Companies targeted include retailers, hotel chains, restaurants, and private parking providers.

The US, the UK, and Canada top the list of countries where the malicious app has been found, accounting for 30 per cent, 19 per cent, and 9 per cent of the total number of affected systems, respectively.

This certainly isn't the first time cybercrooks have targeted POS systems. In fact, such attacks are becoming increasingly common – which is no surprise, given how lucrative they can be.

In September, four Romanian hackers pled guilty to charges that they hacked into the POS systems of 150 Subway sandwich shops in the US. Their scheme reportedly lasted two years, during which time they were able to make off with more than $10m in fraudulent charges and funds transfers from stolen payment cards.

What sets Dexter apart from earlier incidents, however, is its relative sophistication.

Most hacks targeting POS systems – the Romanian job included – are essentially spyware attacks in which crooks use Remote Desktop exploits or other means to grab screenshots of the affected systems. In essence, the thieves are simply reading credit card information off the POS screens.

Dexter, on the other hand, uses a more subtle approach – and a more thorough one. Once the malware is installed on a POS system, it grabs the machine's list of active processes and sends them to a command-and-control server – a highly unusual step for POS malware, according to security researchers at Trustwave.

If the server determines that any of the programs currently running on the machine correspond to known POS software, it orders Dexter to dump the memory of those processes, parse them for payment card–related data, and upload that data to the server, so that criminals can use it to clone the cards.

That much we know. What isn't known is just how Dexter finds its way onto POS terminals to begin with. According to Seculert, about 30 per cent of the POS systems targeted were running Windows Server, which makes it unlikely that the malware was installed using typical social-engineering or drive-by web download methods.

Still, if you do encounter unrecognized charges on your credit card bill in the coming months, now you know what to tell the bank when you call to dispute the transactions: "It wasn't me. It was that POS system that swiped my card!" ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.