Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Target Data Breach Unveiled

How It was done. You will be surprised that all the tools used where known!

By Cesar Ortiz- Trojan.POSRAM Identified As the RAM Scraper in the KAPTOXA Operation That Infected Target Stores

Article first published 1/23/2014  as "Target Data Breach Unveiled: Technical Details Are Known" in Yahoo! Contributors/ABC News Network.

The US government in an effort to warn other point of sale merchants of the potential danger of  more attacks that will provide another wave of  "Target like" customer victims, have released an internal document where detailed insight of the methodology used by attackers of the Target data breach is revealed. The consulting firm iSIGHT Partners was one of the investigative contracted forensics experts. The US Department of Homeland Security released to merchants a joint Department of Homeland Security, USSS, FS-ISAC and iSIGHT report titled "KAPTOXA POS Report" where we get a look at an insight of the methods and tools used to hack Target. Hopefully, merchants will take notice and immediately take preventive measures.

The methodology used at Target was almost exactly as I predicted in our original exclusive December 26, 2013 “ The Target Stores Data Breach ” Yahoo! article, right after the hack. Journalist Brian Krebs was also right on target when he mentioned at that time that the hack might have been based on a known trojan virus called BlackPos that is readily detected by all anti-virus software. The updated modified version of BlackPos trojan used in the Target breach is named Trojan.POSRAM, this derivative is highly sophisticated in stealth features in order to hide to prevent detection. POSRAM is believed to have originated in Russia.

When we compile the information given by the report and the media, specially an article in the Wired publication named “The Malware that Duped Target Have Been Found”, we come close to figure out the order of events in the Target data breach. First, the merchant network system is infiltrated with the malware, possibly remotely, exploiting an opening in the system or by executing a simple human engineering exploit. The malware is a data scrapping tool that takes data from the memory of the point of sale terminal (POS) or what we know as the cash register. This tool will reside in the system and will store the stolen data inside the merchant’s servers. The tool will monitor the data in the files named “pos.exe" and "PosW32.exe”; these files contain the memory space that includes magnetic strip data of your bank card. In the Target's breach event it remained still for six days. That inactivity period is excellent to prevent detection.

The residing malware in the merchant creates a connection to an out of the premises server that receives and transmits data to the victim server. The outside server, can be located anywhere, in the world, and, queries the victim server at specific time intervals. This one was located in Russia. Some of the malicious scripts used have references in Russian language. If the local merchant time is for example between 10 AM and 5 PM, as it is used in the old BlackPos tool, then the data is deposited in an a  temporary NetBIOS share “host” folder created by the malware. This share folder is then accessed using file transfer protocol (FTP). Many more complex technical details have been found by the media in just a few hours after the release of the KAPTOXA POS Report. All the details follow the same pattern; surprisingly, modified known exploits where used at all times.

 KAPTOXA is the name given by investigators to the specific operation methodology and compilation of hacking tools in the Target data breach. Nothing in the KAPTOXA operation is out of the ordinary. Probably the other tools used in the hack are already known in the trade. It is not that the criminals used super sophisticated malware, it is the way and the timing they where used. The fact that known hacking tools where used will open the doors to a wave of lawsuits that will claim that the merchants could have prevented the hack; this is one of the reason that the government has taken the unprecedented steps of releasing some of the facts and data about the crime before even finishing the investigation. Merchants should verify their systems immediately. Victimized stores should consider making public their breach ASAP. The more time the notifications to affected customers passes by, the higher the lawsuit figures will be and more damage to the customer is made.

Two individuals from Mexico were arrested in McAllen, Texas with ninety six fraudulent bank cards in their possession. The suspects had used bank cards with account information matching the Target stolen cards of South Texas residents. After the shopping spree, the suspects left for Mexico. They entered the US again possibly, for another shopping spree. They where detained upon arrival. This event confirms that the stolen data is sold in the illicit market by regions. Criminals are maximizing the use of the stolen data by being very creative. Regardless of Target's downplay efforts to minimize the impact, a customer can be a victim of identity theft with the specific data stolen at Target.

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