Security Experts:

Hackers Use Custom PoS Malware to Target Retailers

A cybercriminal group has been using a custom-build point-of-sale (PoS) malware family to steal payment card data, which it sells on underground forums.

The malware, dubbed TreasureHunt and TreasureHunter based on a specific string found in the binary, has been monitored by FireEye, whose researchers found evidence that the threat has been around since at least late 2014.

As companies in the United States are moving to more secure EMV chip-equipped cards, many cybercriminal groups have started focusing their efforts on organizations that are slow to make the transition, such as smaller banks and retailers. TreasureHunt is one of the tools used by malicious actors in attacks aimed at such organizations.

The malware is designed to enumerate the processes running on the infected system, extract credit and debit card information from memory, and send it back to a command and control (C&C) server.

Researchers believe TreasureHunt is planted on PoS systems using stolen or weak credentials. Once executed, the malware installs itself in the “%APPDATA%” directory and creates a registry entry for persistence. HTTP POST requests are used to connect to and send harvested data to the C&C server.

“The malware scans all running processes and ignores processes that contain System33, SysWOW64, or \Windows\explorer.exe in their module names. It searches for payment card data and, if found, sends the data encoded back to the CnC server,” FireEye researcher Nart Villeneuve explained in a blog post.

According to FireEye, all TreasureHunt samples have the same compilation timestamp, namely October 19, 2014. However, based on the dates when samples had been first seen on VirusTotal or FireEye’s Dynamic Threat Intelligence (DTI) and based on C&C domain registration details, the security firm has managed to compile a timeline of TreasureHunt activity.

The most recent versions were first spotted in November 25, 2015, and March 3, 2016. In the newer version, 0.1.1, the malware stores encoded configuration data in the NTFS alternate data streams (ADS) of the file “%USERPROFILE%\ntuser.ini.”

The malware appears to have been created by an individual using the online moniker “Jolly Roger” for a group called “BearsInc,” which has been offering stolen payment card information on an underground forum specializing in credit card fraud. The “Jolly Roger” alias was also seen in the Jolly Roger Stealer malware family in 2013, but experts say it’s unclear if the threats are connected considering that they don’t share any significant chunks of code.

TreasureHunt was first analyzed last year by SANS researchers, who detailed how the malware generated mutex names to evade detection.

More than a dozen new PoS malware families were discovered by researchers last year, including NitlovePoSPoSeidon, MWZLesson, MalumPOS, Cherry Picker and AbaddonPOS.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.