advertisement
advertisement

Cyberthieves Are Going Low-Tech, And The Only Way To Stop Them May Be To Go Even Lower

Written by Frank Hayes
June 18th, 2013

At a time when retail IT is getting better at locking down just about every avenue cyberthieves have of breaking in—PINpads, wireless networks, connections with processors—it’s nice to know the bad guys are still able to hit retail security where it isn’t. (OK, it’s not nice, but you know what we mean.) According to FICO, scammers are now using a decidedly low-tech technique for stealing payment-card information from consumers—and there’s no special reason the same trick won’t work against store employees for the keys to a retail network.

It works like this: A cyberthief phones the target claiming to be from a bank and says that there’s been suspicious activity on the target’s card. If the target doesn’t trust the caller, the thief encourages the target to phone the bank using a number the target trusts. The target hangs up—but the thief doesn’t. When the target picks up the phone again to dial, the thief plays a recording of a dial tone. The target dials, but it’s the thief who fields the call. From that point, it’s all Social Engineering 101.

It’s sublimely simple, and applicable to almost anything in a retail setting. The thief can call a store claiming to be from central IT, calling to set up time for a contractor to work on equipment. Or from the chain’s processor, calling to confirm configuration details. Or from network security, Loss Prevention, accounting, or almost any other department. Most store associates won’t notice even if the dial tone sounds a little odd, and many will just be using speed-dial anyway.

And once a store associate or manager is talking to someone at the other end of a trusted connection, no matter how odd the information requests get, the store personnel will probably still deliver. After all, how could a bad guy have hacked into speed-dial?

Best of all—OK, worst of all—there’s no practical technical fix for this security hole. But there is a simple fix: Store personnel should always call that trusted number on a different line.

In fact, the easiest way to enforce that policy is to train managers and associates to make that trusted call after putting the original (cyberthief) caller on hold. If the call is legitimate, it will ring through to someone else at the processor, central IT, Loss Prevention or accounting. If the call is a scam, keeping the thief on hold will prevent the store personnel from falling for the fake dial tone.

And there’s a certain elegance in a defense that’s even more low-tech than the original attack.


advertisement

Leave a Reply

Readers, specifically those who want to comment on a story:
Our Comment SPAM system is getting very aggressive these days and has been blocking legitimate comments. If you post a comment and don't see it appear within 2 hours or so, can you please send a heads-up to customer-service@storefrontbacktalk.com? Ideally, please include the time you posted the comment. That will allow us to try and hunt for it. Thanks! P.S. We're working on fixing the system, but we don't want to lose any valuable comments in the meantime.

Newsletters

StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 17,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!
advertisement

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

StorefrontBacktalk
Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.