POS Breaches: Bankrupting Small Businesses and Impacting the Supply Chain

There’s a popular cybercrime statistic that has been vexing me for years, and if you read cybersecurity news regularly, I’m sure you’ve seen it cited a few dozen times as well:

60% of small businesses close their doors within six months of a cyber-attack.

I’ve always been skeptical of that bold statistic. As Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography, attributing the now famous quote to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Sixty percent is incredibly high (and what percent of these companies would have failed anyway, cyber-attack or not?); nevertheless, I’ve always wanted to find the source of that data and delve into the stories behind that number.

I’ve largely failed on both of those fronts over the past few years.

First, the statistic is most often attributed in some vague way to either the National Cyber Security Alliance or the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology. In fact, National Cyber Security Alliance executive director Michael Kaiser did quote that statistic before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology in December 2011, but he was actually citing a Business Insider article from three months prior. The Business Insider article is similarly vague, saying only that “about 60 percent of small businesses will close shop within six months of an attack” — but providing no other context to back up that assertion.

Second, my repeated attempts to find small businesses that have failed due to cyber-attacks — and are willing talk publicly about those failures — have come up mostly empty.

When Breaches Lead to Bankruptcy

All of this serves as a backdrop to the recent conviction of Roman Valerevich Seleznev, aka Track2, 32, of Vladivostok, Russia. Seleznev was convicted on August 25 of 38 counts related to hacking point-of-sale systems and stealing payment card information. According to trial testimony, Seleznev’s scheme led to more than $169 million in losses across 3,700 financial institutions.

Perhaps most interesting — at least when it comes to my ongoing quest to chronicle small businesses being put out of business by cybercrime — was this tidbit from the Department of Justice press release:

Many of the businesses [targeted by Seleznev] were small businesses, some of which were restaurants in Western Washington, including the Broadway Grill in Seattle, which was forced into bankruptcy following the cyber assault.

According to the indictment, Seleznev and others used automated techniques such as port scanning to identify vulnerable retail point-of-sale systems that were connected to the Internet and then infect those systems with malware.

“[Seleznev and others] hacked into, installed malware on, and stole credit card track data from, hundreds of retail businesses in the Western District of Washington and elsewhere,” the indictment stated. “[They] stole, in total, over two million credit card numbers, many of which they then sold through their dump shop websites … generating millions of dollars of illicit profits.”

Seattle’s iconic The Grill on Broadway was one of those small businesses to be hit by point-of-sale malware in 2010. The incident, along with other issues inherited from previous owners, led to the restaurant being closed in 2013.

“It became a target of a credit card number harvesting scheme that claimed a number of businesses on Broadway as victims,” the Seattle Gay Scene wrote at the time of the closing. “Several years of missed software updates played a significant role in the incident and [owner Matthew] Walsh and his team discovered this fact only a few months after purchasing the business. The effects were devastating to The Grill, generating massive amounts of negative publicity and drastically reduced revenue at the restaurant.”

The resources required to stay afloat were simply too much.

“In spite of what it may seem, we’re a very small business,” Walsh said. “We don’t have endless financial resources to keep us afloat like a chain restaurant or large corporation could.”

Recent Supply Chain Issues Affect POS Systems

The conviction of Seleznev over stolen payment card information and the re-emergence of The Grill on Broadway’s story comes during the same month that several point-of-sale vendors, including Oracle MICROS, have announced potential compromises — and a series of retailers and hotels have subsequently published data breach notifications.

Those breaches haven’t been explicitly connected, but several of the hotels to recently announce breaches have previously confirmed using MICROS products.

For example, Millennium Hotels & Resorts (MHR), which recently announced a data breach affecting food and beverage point-of-sale systems at 14 hotels, said it was notified by a third-party service provider about “malicious code in certain of its legacy point of sale systems, including those used by MHR.”

“The third party is a significant supplier of PoS systems to the hotel industry,” a spokesperson responded when SurfWatch Labs inquired about problems stemming from the supply chain. “It is aware of these issues. We are not disclosing the name.”

However, in 2008 MICROS Systems, now owned by Oracle, announced that Millennium Hotels & Resorts would be using MICROS “as the standard food and beverage point-of-sale solution for its 14 Millennium Hotel properties located in the United States” — so it’s possible there’s some connection between the breaches.

The same Russian group that hit MICROS has targeted at least five other cash-register providers, according to Forbes’ Thomas Fox-Brewster. Investigations are ongoing, but as we noted in our recent report, cybercrime is increasingly interconnected and compromises can quickly move down the supply chain, affecting everyone from small businesses to large enterprises.

If that 60% statistic is true, even partially, then it begs the question: will these recent breaches in the point-of-sale supply chain lead to more shuttered doors in the future?

And will we hear those businesses’ stories if it does happen? Or will they just become another vague statistic that we all continue to reference?

After Slow Start in 2016, Point-of-Sale Breaches Surging

Last week Eddie Bauer became the latest in a growing string of companies to announce a major point-of-sale-related breach. All 350 North American stores were affected by malware that may have siphoned off customers’ payment card information between January and July of this year.

Not all cardholder transactions were impacted, the company said, and the breach does not include any online transactions; however, the announcement comes during the same month that Oracle MICROS, HEI Hotels & Resorts and several other companies posted similar breach announcements.

The recent surge follows a comparatively quiet period over the first half of 2016, as this chart from our Mid-Year 2016 Cyber Risk Report highlights.

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Compared to the large number of POS breaches and chatter in 2014, the past year and a half has been relatively quiet — other than a spike in late 2015 tied to several different hotel breaches, the report said.

“This dip in discussion is accentuated by the extreme number of high-profile organizations affected by POS breaches in 2014, perhaps skewing the perception for what ‘normal’ levels of activity should be,” the report noted. “Point-of-sale breaches are not making as many headlines, but breaches so far this year have proven that for many organizations the associated costs are as high or higher than they have ever been.”

Revisiting that chart a month and a half later, it appears the activity level is now kicking up to match those high costs. SurfWatch Labs has collected more point-of-sale-related CyberFacts in August (through just 21 days) than any other month so far this year.

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The number of point-of sale CyberFacts collected by SurfWatch Labs has surged in recent months (data through August 21). HEI Hotels & Resorts is the highest trending POS-related target this month after announcing a data breach.

Oracle, Other Vendors Compromised

Adding to the concern around point-of-sale systems, Brain Krebs recently broke the news of a breach of hundreds of computer systems at Oracle, including a customer support portal for companies using Oracle’s MICROS point-of-sale credit card payment systems.

Sources said the MICROS customer support portal has been observed communicating with a server known to be used by the Carbanak Gang. That’s alarming since the gang is suspected be behind the theft of more than $1 billion from financial institutions in recent years.

“This breach could be little more than a nasty malware outbreak at Oracle,” Krebs wrote. “However, the Carbanak Gang’s apparent involvement makes it unlikely the attackers somehow failed to grasp the enormity of access and power that control over the MICROS support portal would grant them.”

The investigation is ongoing, and Oracle so far has not provided customers or media outlets with many answers.

To make matters worse, Forbes’ Thomas Fox-Brewster reported that several other cash register suppliers besides MICROS have been breached recently.

“It now appears the same allegedly Russian cybercrime gang has hit five others in the last month: Cin7, ECRS, Navy Zebra, PAR Technology and Uniwell,” he wrote. “Together, they supply as many as, if not more than, 1 million point-of-sale systems globally.”

Hotels Remain Top Trending POS Target

In our mid-year report, the “Hotels, Motels and Cruiselines” subgroup of Consumer Goods dominated the chatter around point-of-sale breaches, and not much has changed in the two months since that report. In fact, nearly 42% of all the point-of-sale CyberFacts collected by SurfWatch Labs so far this year have fallen into that group.

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More than 60% of SurfWatch Labs’ point-of-sale related CyberFacts collected this year fall into either the Hotels, Motels and Cruiselines or Restaurants and Bars groups.

The top trending point-of-sale target this month is HEI Hotels & Resorts, which announced a breach involving 20 hotels on August 12. The malware was discovered in June on point-of-sale systems used at restaurants, bars, spas, lobby shops and other facilities, according to Reuters. Twelve Starwood hotels, six Marriott International properties, one Hyatt hotel and one InterContinental hotel were impacted.

If those names sound familiar, it’s because several of them have already made news for data breaches of late, including Hyatt in December 2015 and Starwood in January 2016.

Other data breaches this year involving hotels include Kimpton Hotels, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, Rosen Hotels & Resorts and the Trump Hotel Collection.

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Although the various incidents that have been announced in recent weeks have not been explicitly connected by either researchers or law enforcement, the breach notice from Eddie Bauer did signify that other organizations have been targeted with a similar campaign.

“Unfortunately, malware intrusions like this are all too common in the world that we live in today,” the company wrote. “In fact, we learned that the malware found on our systems was part of a sophisticated attack directed at multiple restaurants, hotels, and retailers, including Eddie Bauer.”

Other experts such as Gartner fraud analyst Avivah Litan have speculated that the breach at Oracle “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.”

At the moment many questions remain, but if these investigations lead to the discovery of further compromises, expect to see more breach announcements and more payment card information being sold on Dark Web markets in the months to come.

Supply Chains and Third Parties Continue to Cause Data Breaches

When putting together our recent Mid-Year 2016 Cyber Risk Report, the SurfWatch Labs team began by trying to answer one crucial question: with numerous cybercrime events across thousands of organizations this year, is there a central theme that emerges from all of that data?

In 2014, the data was dominated by a seemingly endless string of point-of-sale breaches. In 2015, the data highlighted a shift towards stolen personal information and more effective ways for cybercriminals to monetize that information. In 2016, the data so far showcases how cybercrime effects often spread beyond the walls of the victim organization.

“The diversity of cyber threats can seem overwhelming when viewed in isolation,” the report noted. “Collectively, they paint a picture of an increasingly connected cybercrime world. Malicious actors excel on taking one piece of information and leveraging it to perform further attacks, gain more information, and widen their reach. The stories so far in 2016 clearly demonstrate this approach, with numerous cyber incidents tied to previous data breaches.”

In fact, the number of cybercrime targets tied to “third-party” tags spiked the month before we published our report. As we noted in our previous blog, many of these incidents were connected to previous data breaches and the tactic of “credential stuffing” — where automated tools are used to exploit large batches of known user credentials to discover new accounts to take over.

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SurfWatch Labs collected data on more industry targets tied to “third-party” data breaches in June than any other month so far in 2016.

On Tuesday another company was added to the growing list of third-party victims after its customer data was discovered being sold on the dark web. This time it was UK telecommunications company O2. Once again, the incident was attributed to credential stuffing.

“We have not suffered a data breach,” O2 said in a statement. “Credential stuffing is a challenge for businesses and can result in many [companies’] customer data being sold on the dark net. We have reported all the details passed to us about the seller to law enforcement and we continue to help with their investigations.”

As the BBC noted, “The data was almost certainly obtained by using usernames and passwords first stolen from gaming website XSplit three years ago.”

o2
Although the company wasn’t directly breached, UK Telecom O2 had customer information for sale on the dark web due to data breaches at other organizations and “credential stuffing.”

That XSplit breach occurred in November 2013 and affected 2,983,472 accounts, according to Have I Been Pwned? The breach led to names, email addresses, usernames and hashed passwords being compromised.

That batch of three-year old credentials appears to be the cause of the current breach of O2 accounts — as malicious actors leveraged that old information in order to gain even more personal information on the victims. In addition to names, email addresses and passwords, the O2 accounts for sale on the dark web include users’ phone numbers and dates of birth.

This is a similar scenario to what happened at LinkedIn, the most discussed company related to cybercrime so far this year. A 2012 data breach exposed more than 100 million user credentials. Over the past few months we’ve seen a variety of companies force password resets or otherwise report data theft due to those four-year-old credentials still being reused by customers or employees.

In short, old data breaches are leading to a surge of fresh attacks. However, credential reuse isn’t the only concrete example of the ripple effect of cybercrime, although it certainly is a major issue. This year has also seen more traditional incidents of supply chain cybercrime — where one partner or vendor is exploited to compromise another organization. In fact, SurfWatch Labs has collected data on “third-party” cybercrime impacting dozens of different industry groups so far in 2016.

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While many industry groups have been impacted by “third-parties” this year, Software and IT Services and Consulting are the top trending groups in SurfWatch Labs’ data.

For example, in June we wrote about several healthcare organizations that were victimized by an actor going by the name “TheDarkOverlord,” who was attempting to sell data stolen from healthcare databases on the dark web. This week two of those healthcare organizations publicly confirmed they were victims. As databreaches.net noted, both cited third-parties as a source of the compromise in their repsective statements.

  • Midwest Orthopedics Group: “… To date, our investigation has determined that on May 4, 2016, a hacker, or hackers, likely gained access into our secured database system through a third party contractor and may have obtained some personal information of our patients …”
  • Athens Orthopedic Clinic: “Athens Orthopedic Clinic recently experienced a data breach due to an external cyber-attack on our electronic medical records using the credentials of a third-party vendor. …”

Various agencies and government groups are taking notice of the trend. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently proposed revisions to the critical infrastructure protection (CIP) Reliability Standards, writing in a press release that “recent malware campaigns targeting supply chain vendors highlight a gap in protection under the [current] CIP.” In addition, the new guidelines from the automotive industry’s ISAC call for more transparent supply chains and increased involvement with third-party researchers. Lastly, Air Force chief information officer Lt. Gen. William Bender noted at a recent forum that the supply chain remains a concern that can span across many different companies.

“It’s not just primary vendors, it’s secondary, tertiary and even further down,” he said.

Having threat intelligence on those various partners, vendors and others who may indirectly affect an organization’s cybersecurity is more important than ever. As SurfWatch Labs’ Mid-Year Risk Report concluded, “The effects of cybercrime continue to ripple outwards – affecting those in the supply chain and beyond.” 

Cybercrime is Increasingly Interconnected, Says New SurfWatch Labs Report

The first half of 2016 is over, and SurfWatch Labs analysts have spent the past few weeks sifting through the huge amount of cybercrime data we collected — totaling tens of thousands of CyberFacts across more than 3,400 industry targets — in order to identify threat intelligence trends to include in our mid-year 2016 report.

“If anything,” the report notes, “the stories behind these breaches seem to contradict the increasingly familiar spin that follows most incidents: ‘We were the victim of a sophisticated attack. The incident has been contained.'”

Download the full Mid-Year 2016 Cyber Trends Report

To the contrary, the data behind the year’s many incidents indicates many cyber-attacks are neither sophisticated nor isolated.

For example, this year’s top trending cybercrime target was LinkedIn. In May 2016 LinkedIn announced that a 2012 breach, which was believed to have been contained four years ago by resetting passwords on impacted accounts, was much larger than originally thought. An additional 100 million members were affected. Since that announcement, reports continue to surface of secondary organizations having their data stolen due to a combination of those now exposed LinkedIn passwords, widespread password reuse among employees, and remote access software from services such as GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, and TeamViewer.

To make matters worse, LinkedIn was just one of several massive credential dumps to make headlines — not to mention the numerous high-profile breaches affecting personal information or other sensitive data.

Trending Industry Targets Tied to Cybercrime in 1H 2016

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SurfWatch Labs collected data on 3,488 industry targets tied to cybercrime in the first half of 2016. Of those, 1,934 industry targets were observed being discussed on the traditional web and 1,775 were observed on the dark web.

Malicious actors excel at taking one piece of information and leveraging it to perform further attacks, gain more information, and widen their reach. As we noted in May, this has led to many companies making headlines for data breaches — even though a breach may not have occurred. For example:

  • Music service Spotify had a list of user credentials posted to Pastebin that were collected from other data breaches. This led to a series of articles about the company “denying” a data breach.
  • China’s online shopping site Tabao had hackers use a database of previously stolen usernames and passwords to try to access over 20 million active accounts.
  • GitHub, Carbonite, Twitter, and more have all forced password resets for users after large-scale targeting of user accounts or lists of user credentials appeared on the dark web.
  • Other unnamed companies have confirmed to media outlets that sensitive information has been stolen recently due to password reuse attacks.

SurfWatch Labs’ data paints a picture of an increasingly connected cybercrime world where malicious actors leverage past successes to create new victims. The pool of compromised information widens; the effects of cybercrime ripple outwards.

However, those effects are largely dependent on industry sector and the types of information or resources that are attractive to different individuals, hacktivists, cybercriminal groups, and other malicious actors. SurfWatch Labs’ data so far this year reflects that fact.

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Infected/exploited assets, service interruption and data stolen/leaked were the top trending effect categories overall in the first half of 2016, based on the percentage of CyberFacts that contained those tags.

For example, SurfWatch Labs report identifies infected/exploited assets as the top effect category overall, although it only appeared in 14% of entertainment and government-related CyberFacts. In those sectors, the majority of discussion was around account hijacks (37%) and service interruption (33%), respectively, as actors targeted social media accounts with large followings or hacktivists utilized defacement and DDoS attacks to spread their messages.

Similarly, the healthcare sector saw increased chatter around the financial loss and data altered/destroyed categories due to several high-profile ransomware attacks and warnings from various bodies about potential extortion attacks.

Other interesting data points and trends from the report include:

  • IT, global government, and consumer goods were the most targeted industries. Of all the CyberFacts analyzed, the information technology industry was hit the hardest in the first half of 2016. Microsoft was second behind LinkedIn as the top target. After IT, the government sector had the highest number of publicly discussed cybercrime targets, led by a breach at the Commission on Elections in the Philippines. The consumer goods sector made up the largest share of industry targets with information bought, sold, or otherwise discussed on the dark web.
  • Employee data is being targeted more often. Some organizations reported falling victim to scams targeting data such as W-2 information even though they were able to successfully identify and avoid other more traditional wire fraud scams. Malicious actors may be trying to take advantage of these “softer” targets in the human resources, bookkeeping, or auditing departments by performing attacks that are not as easily recognizable as large-dollar wire fraud attempts.
  • Point-of-sale chatter remains relatively low. Point-of-sale breaches are not making as many headlines, but breaches so far this year have proven that for many organizations the associated costs are as high or higher than they have ever been.
  • Ransomware and extortion threats continue to grow. The first half of 2016 saw a spike in ransomware and extortion-related tags as researchers, organizations, and government officials tried to deal with the growing and costly problem of data or services being held hostage for ransom.

For more threat intelligence trends, download the full Mid-Year 2016 Cyber Trends Report from SurfWatch Labs.

WEB HOSTING PROVIDER TO MAJOR SPORTS LEAGUES, MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT COMPANIES BREACHED BY ALPHALEON

This real-life case study will contain some info, but not all – to protect individuals’ personally identifiable information – as well as our intelligence collection sources – with our goal of highlighting the importance of having visibility into your supply chain cyber risks. In the beginning of April 2016 SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts uncovered a breach into web hosting provider Invision Power Services, whose customers include some professional sports leagues as well as major media and entertainment companies.

The actor, going by the name AlphaLeon, is associated with both the AlphaBot and Thanatos trojans – early strains of these pieces of malware appear to date back to early 2015. AlphaLeon has been known to sell access to these trojans on the dark web. While the actor has not been a seller for very long, the group’s experience and presence indicates they have been active in this space for more than five years – including multiple dark web and open web forums.

After discovering information related to the latest activity of this actor, we alerted Invision Power Services (IPS) who had not yet detected this compromise. We worked with them to validate that the actor appeared to have established a presence within the managed hosting environment that Invision Power Services operated via Amazon Web Services (AWS).

It is our understanding that IPS is still working through their own internal investigation into the incident and additional information may be uncovered, but it appears that the initial cause of the compromise was most likely the result of unpatched software. AlphaLeon indicated that this access, which affected multiple high level brands, would allow them to install Exploit Kits with the purpose of infecting users visiting these sites with their trojan. This would grow the group’s botnet further, which would in turn be sold via various underground markets. The trojan appears to be capable of:

  • Stealing banking credentials and bitcoins
  • Gaining (and selling) webcam access
  • Delivering ransomware
  • Sending spam
  • Stealing gaming credentials
  • Distributed Denial of Service

As of the date of this post it does not appear that AlphaLeon has initiated this specific campaign.

This case study highlights three primary things:

  1. This is a classic case of supply chain risk management. Invision Power Services is a supplier to some of the largest brands. These companies entrusted their web hosting provider to perform a reasonable service based on whatever contractual agreements were in place. Even if the impacted companies are not at fault, they still have their own customers and their brand and reputation to protect. If you are going to outsource a service that has cyber risk tied to it, you are outsourcing a portion of your brand and reputation in some way shape or form and you need to keep some eyeballs on that supply chain.
  2. Having a dark web intel capability is an important component of your overall cybersecurity efforts. In this situation, a bad actor was observed in a dark web forum. This source was key to gaining intel that was not available through normal open channels. The dark web is certainly not the only source you should be pulling from in your intel efforts, but it is an important area for which you should have a collection capability.
  3. The intel process works. SurfWatch Labs analysts observed discussions that concerned us, we notified the victim hosting provider, they confirmed the issue and started to react. That is what is supposed to happen.

As you outsource capabilities to other vendors, your cyber risk exposure expands. Make sure you cast a wide net in regards to your intelligence collection capabilities. It is critical to understand this and to keep a watchful eye on not only your internal environment, but that of the vendors you do business with.