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Hackers Breached Payment Solutions Provider CHARGE Anywhere: Undetected Since 2009

CHARGE Anywhere Data Breach

Hackers Lurked Undetected Inside Electronic Payment Solutions Provider Since 2009 - Numerous Merchants Affected

[DEVELOPING STORY] - Electronic payment gateway solutions provider CHARGE Anywhere, LLC said on Tuesday that an attack against its network resulted in hackers gaining access to payment card data for transactions processed through many merchants.

The hackers breached the systems and had the ability to capture data as early as November 5, 2009, CHARGE Anywhere said, using malware that had not been previously detected by any anti-virus program.

CHARGE Anywhere offers solutions that route payment transactions from merchants' point-of-sale systems to their payment processors. Customers include large enterprises, developers, and independent sales organizations (ISOs).

The company did not disclose how many merchants may be affected as a result of the breach, and did not immediately respond to a request by SecurityWeek for additional information.

CHARGE Anywhere, listed as a PCI-DSS Level 1 Service Provider with numerous other certifications, said attackers potentially accessed data including cardholder names, account numbers, expiration dates, and verification codes.

The company said that it conducted an investigation after being asked to investigate fraudulent charges that appeared on cards that had been legitimately used at certain merchants.

“The investigation revealed that an unauthorized person initially gained access to the network and installed sophisticated malware that was then used to create the ability to capture segments of outbound network traffic,” the company said. “Much of the outbound traffic was encrypted. However, the format and method of connection for certain outbound messages enabled the unauthorized person to capture and ultimately then gain access to plain text payment card transaction authorization requests.”

The malware was discovered on September 22, 2014, and the investigation determined that while payment cards used at certain merchants between November 5, 2009 and September 24, 2014 may have been affected, evidence shows the actual network traffic capture only occurred from August 17, 2014 through September 24, 2014.

This incident did not affect any system or device at merchant locations, nor did it affect the systems of any ISO, processor, or other service provider, CHARGE Anywhere said.

"This attack is further evidence that attackers are going after the largest potential targets with the most card data – a gateway such as CHARGE is an aggregation point for card data from multiple merchants and so they are attractive to criminals seeking to steal this data," Rob Sadowski, Director of Technology Solutions for RSA, told SecurityWeek. "Further, because they are part of the transaction processing flow, attackers can gain access to full track data from the cards being processed, which is the most valued type of card data in the criminal underground."

"The long time that the attackers were able to remain on the network and capture data shows the need for better detection capabilities that go beyond simple signature-based anti-malware tools to spot malicious, anomalous activity that may indicate an intrusion," Sadowski continued. "It is critical to reduce attackers free time on the network in which they are able to operate undetected and work to accomplish their goals of finding, collecting, and exfiltrating card data."

SecurityWeek has contacted CHARGE Anywhere for additional information and will update this story as additional details are received.

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*Updated with additional commentary

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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.