Cybersecurity firm uncovers sophisticated malware threat

Something often included in many reports of data breaches is the fact that the affected company is working with a cybersecurity firm to investigate and strengthen their network. That fact is typically included at the end of the report, mainly because these relationships hardly ever yield anything beyond some added security measures for the company in question. Fortunately, one of these firms has actually uncovered something that could proactively help businesses and consumers worldwide.

Recently, The Dallas Morning News reported that a Dallas-based cybersecurity firm, iSight Partners, discovered the secrets to what they called "the most sophisticated point-of-sale malware" to date, which they then called ModPOS. The malicious software was difficult to trace for many reasons, one of which is because it doesn't show up on current antivirus scans.

"We didn't really even know what we were looking at initially because it's so complex," Maria Noboa, an iSight senior threat analyst, told the Morning News.

The firm discovered patterns in its consultations with breached companies, the names of which it did not disclose. After two years of research, it was able to uncover the secrets of ModPOS.

The malware is different from others in that it is not just one piece of software, but rather a complex system of many different modules and plug-ins installed throughout point of sale systems. It also used encryption to help keep itself hidden.

Since the discovery, iSight as worked with several companies like the Retail Cyber Intelligence Sharing Center and the National Retail Federation to spread information on how to stop ModPOS before it affects others.

"We have pretty sophisticated criminals out there and as long as we have data they can monetize, they're going to try to go after it," Tom Litchford, NRF vice president of retail technology, told the Morning News. Litchford continued, saying that information sharing has significantly helped retailers in defending themselves against cyberthreats.

The NRF is in the process of encouraging its members to add encryption to their point-of-sale systems. If credit card information is encrypted before its transmission, it will help protect that data from malware like ModPOS.

In a September survey of NRF members, 41 percent said that they had this type of encryption in place and that 85 percent should have it by the end of 2015.

According to The Dallas Morning News, another level of encryption may be a critical component to supporting the new embedded chip credit cards, also known as EMV cards. Security experts that spoke with the news source claims that, even though the data on EMV cards are already encrypted, it may need the help of a secondary layer to fully protect it from malware.

Noboa confirmed this, telling the Morning News that sophisticated pieces of Malware, like ModPOS are "able to do so many things," and may easily be adapted to get around the built in encryption of EMV once hackers discover more about that technology.

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