Security Experts:

Attackers Breach Payment Card Systems at HSBC Turkey

Banking giant HSBC Turkey said that it recently identified a cyber attack targeting its credit card and debit card systems in Turkey.

The financial institution claimed that it “stopped the cyber-attack”, but not before attackers accessed payment card numbers and linked account numbers, along with card expiry dates and card holder names of customers.

“On identifying the incident, we took immediate action to safeguard our customers,” the Turkish operation of HSBC said in a statement. “We launched an investigation that is ongoing in cooperation with the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency of Turkey (BRSA) and other relevant authorities. All card operations of HSBC Turkey are functioning normally.”

HSBC TurkeyWhile HSBC did not disclose the number of records exposed or possible number of customers affected in the breach, some reports say the number could total 2.7 million customers.

“A couple of things stand out – the attack happened last week, and they’ve caught it already, and they caught it themselves,” Trey Ford, Global Security Strategist at Rapid7, told SecurityWeek. “This is impressive given that the vast majority of breaches are detected by third parties, and often not for months."

For example, Mandiant's 2014 M-Trends report revealed that breaches (investigated by Mandiant) were discovered in 229 days on average in 2013 vs. 243 in 2012. While these improvements are a positive, it still means attackers are still spending 2/3rds of the year inside an organization’s network before being discovered.

In an FAQ posted to its website, HSBC Turkey said that its cards are secure and customers can continue to use their cards as usual, adding that it would not be possible to make any transactions through Internet banking or telephone banking with the compromised information. It would also be impossible to fraudulent cards and withdraw money from ATMs with the compromised data, they said.

“This is because “card present” transactions require additional information that would be encoded on the magnetic strip, and for “card not present” transactions, the card security code (CVC or CVV2) would be required to transact business,” Ford explained.

HSBC said there has been no evidence so far showing that any of its customers’ other financial information or personal information was compromised in the attack.

“There is no financial risk to our customers and there has been no evidence of any fraud or other suspicious activity arising from this incident,” the bank said.

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.