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How did simple Pro POS malware attack businesses?

Pro POS, a new type of POS malware, has simple operations and is easy to obtain. How was it so successful against businesses? Expert Nick Lewis explains how it can be prevented.

Security researchers at Cisco found that a type of point-of-sale malware called Pro POS, which made the rounds recently, was very easy to use and obtain, and was actually much less sophisticated than experts initially thought. What makes this POS malware so simple, and why can't enterprises stop it?

What was once advanced is now common and less-skilled attackers can successfully adopt the techniques to attack enough systems to profit. This appears to be the case with Pro POS, the point-of-sale malware uncovered by Cisco security researchers. The malware authors appear to have started with a leaked version of the Alina malware, and changed a couple of names and potentially added new unfinished functionality to target point-of-sale systems. The malware authors added rootkit functionality, but it doesn't appear to have been utilized yet. Pro POS malware also has functionality included for executing code that was not correctly implemented, where the password "Password" was used to encrypt a file. The malware is full of operational security vulnerabilities, according to Cisco researchers, including a major flaw that allows arbitrary PHP execution.

Pro POS has significant vulnerabilities and simple operations, but even with these limitations, it can still be used to compromise POS systems because of their weaknesses. Enterprises may not be able to stop it because the malware could have been modified, just enough to bypass standard signature based antimalware checks, and potentially could be loaded onto the POS systems via a USB drive or other mechanism. The costs are significant to secure legacy POS systems that have not been upgraded to support Chip and PIN functionality, and to make moves to support EMV technology. Businesses, regardless of size, need to implement the necessary security controls in PCI DSS to ensure their POS systems are protected and to migrate to Chip and PIN functionality.

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This was last published in May 2016

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