Security Experts:

New Malware Targets Point-of-Sale Systems Just in Time for Holiday Rush

With the holiday season in full swing, and as shoppers rush out for those last minute gifts, a new type of malware is attempting to spoil the festivities. Dubbed "Dexter", this malware targets Point-of-Sale systems, and captures card data as it is transmitted, acting as a middleman in the sales process.

Once the data is collected, it’s shipped off for sorting and distribution either for the attacker's own use or to other criminals. Not much is known about the person or people behind Dexter, but according to Seculert, the malware itself has been spotted at some big-name retail outlets, hotels, and eateries. Accordingly, 42% of the Dexter infections are in North America, but the total number of infections is unknown.

“Dexter is custom-made malware that has been used over the past 2-3 months to infect hundreds POS systems. Some of the targeted POS systems include big-name retailers, hotels, restaurants and even private parking providers. The name Dexter comes from a string found in one of the malware related files and its Track 1 / Track 2 online parsing tool,” Seculert explained in a blog post.

“Dexter is stealing the process list from the infected machine, while parsing memory dumps of specific POS software related processes, looking for Track 1 / Track 2 credit card data. This data will most likely be used by cybercriminals to clone credit cards.”

While falling victim to scams such as these can be a nightmare, it’s still a safer bet to only use a credit card when shopping, due to the consumer protections against theft or fraud. While the recovery process isn’t easy, and the banks make you jump through hoops, it’s better than nothing - which is where debit card protections often leave you.

Unfortunately, malware such as Dexter will have an easy time in the retail industry and hospitality industry, as they are often the lowest scoring verticals in the security arena when it comes to overall protection and preparedness.

Most of the low scores can be attributed to outdated systems and weak deployments, which is why more than half of the Dexter infections are on Windows XP systems or Windows Home Server. Given that the malware is active, AV protection seems either absent or far from current.

view counter
Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.