Point-of-sale malware: the dangers of using credit cards at gas stations in the US, Mexico and Canada

One of the main cybersecurity issues is the fast evolution and diversification of the methods used by malicious hackers, as new attack variants emerge at every moment that affect thousands of people around the world. An example of this behavior is provided by Visa, which has released a security alert warning its users about a hacker group that is infecting gas stations and pumps with a malware variant designed to steal payment card details.  

It seems that the Visa Cybersecurity and Fraud
Prevention Team detected this activity over the last summer, identifying multiple
attacks by sophisticated hacker groups. This campaign targeted point-of-sale
systems in fuel dispensing retailers at multiple locations in the US, Mexico,
and Canada.

One of the first incidents was detected in the
US, where a company was the target of a phishing
campaign. An employee received an email containing an attached link, and after
clicking on it, the download of a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) that the hackers
used to access the attacked network was triggered.

According to Visa cybersecurity team, after
gaining access to the compromised point-of-sale network, hackers injected a
sophisticated payment card data collection malware. Although in subsequent incidents
detected Visa was unable to detect the way hackers accessed the gas pump, the
reports show a mode of operation involving similar malware variants.

This is a much more sophisticated attack variant than the traditional installation of “skimming” devices in gas stations, as now threat actors resort to installing malware to gain access to the internal networks of these companies; it is important to note that Visa only detected the theft of magnetic stripe cards data.

As a recommendation, Visa cybersecurity team
recommends that potentially affected companies transition their points of sale
to chip-reading-based technology, as these devices significantly reduce the
risk of theft of banking information.

A recent release by the research team of cybersecurity
firm Tripwire Inc. mentions that the use of magnetic stripe-based technology
for credit cards is still very common despite the existence of many other
alternatives for years for the security of these means of payment, so it is
necessary for card issuing companies to try to implement safer solutions.

Specialists from the International Institute of
Cyber Security (IICS) agree with this position, as they believe that the
technology used by these companies has been left behind from the requirements
needed to maintain payment cards out of the reach of hackers.

To conclude, the specialized ZDNet platform
believes that the use of magnetic stripe is coming to its end, as they
anticipate that by the end of 2020 fuel dispensing companies will have
completed the transition to the use of chip-reading technology and use of PINs
to transact at these points of sale. In turn, Visa also urges merchants to
update their systems and create a collaborative environment to prevent
large-scale credit card fraud, protecting millions of users.

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