Cybercriminal Group Targets Hotels, Restaurants With Malware

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Hospitality businesses should be on high alert for attacks from a notorious gang. But rather than doing physical harm, this group is attempting something much more sinister: they use malware attacks to steal countless credit card numbers.

A 2013 study found that an average of 82,000 new malware threats occur on a daily basis. That number has most likely increased within the last three years, especially as more organized cybercriminal groups choose to orchestrate widespread attacks.

A security firm called Trustwave confirmed that three of the company’s clients have fallen victim to malware attacks in the last month. Although not confirmed, the offenders behind the attacks are likely the Carbanak gang, which was blamed for stealing nearly $1 billion from numerous banks last year. The malware coding in these recent attacks matches that of previous onslaughts perpetrated by the group.

The recent invasion has targeted the hospitality industry, including hotels and restaurants. The culprits will call a customer service line and pretend to be customers who are unable to access the business’s reservation system online. They will then send an email to the customer service representative. These emails have Word documents attached that supposedly contain their reservation information. Instead, opening these documents will allow malware to be downloaded to the computer system.

These hackers are particularly persistent, as they seem to be doing a lot of research through sites like LinkedIn in order to sound more legitimate. “During the call, they’ll do some name-dropping to establish credibility,” says Brian Hussey, the global director of incident response for Trustwave. He says they’ll also insist on staying on the line with the rep until the document is opened.

After the malware is installed on the computer, it turns vicious. The entire point of the attack is to record credit card numbers that have been obtained through e-commerce payment processing or via point-of-sale machines. What’s worse, antivirus software has completely failed to detect the type of malware being used in this most recent blitz. And this specific malware has an even broader reach than others — it can take desktop screenshots, scan a network for other targets, and even steal email addresses and passwords.

The result can be catastrophic for businesses. Once downloaded, the malware can steal literally every credit card number that passes through the servers for a restaurant or hotel. The entire system can be compromised, and because its antivirus protection is probably useless, there’s little these companies can do after the fact to prevent millions of dollars’ worth of fraudulent charges.

The best way to fight a malware attack is to take preventative measures. Make sure your business has the best antivirus software possible and instruct employees to never open attachments in this manner. If they’re in doubt as to whether to open an email, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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