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Whole Foods Becomes the Latest Victim of a Cyber Attack
Whole Foods, the supermarket chain recently acquired by Amazon, becomes the latest victim of a cyber attack.
The supermarket chain officially acknowledged that the cyber attack potentially compromised its customers’ credit card details. The data breach, according to Whole Foods, affected only the point of sale system used in taprooms (bars) and restaurants located within some of the Whole Foods stores. As of November 2016, The Mercury News reported that 180 of Whole Foods’ 464 stores had bars and restaurants.
In its official statement, Whole Foods stressed that Whole Foods’ bars and restaurants use a different point of sale system from the company’s supermarket point of sale system. The company said that payment cards used at the supermarket point of sale system were not affected. It added that the Amazon systems, which acquired the supermarket chain last month, don’t connect to the Whole Foods’ bars and restaurants system. As such, transactions on Amazon.com haven’t been affected.
Whole Foods’ public statement didn’t reveal how many customers may have been affected, how many bars and restaurants may have been involved or when the data breach was discovered.
The Whole Foods data breach came just heels after the Sonic Drive-in cyber security breach. The American drive-in fast-food restaurant chain, with over 3,500 restaurants in 45 US states, confirmed that there's been some “unusual activity” on credit cards used at some of its restaurants. Similar to Whole Foods, the company didn’t disclose how many credit cards were potentially affected or when the data breach took place.
Krebs on Security reported that Sonic Drive-In cyber security breach may have impacted millions of credit and debit cards.
“The first hints of a breach at Oklahoma City-based Sonic came last week when I began hearing from sources at multiple financial institutions who noticed a recent pattern of fraudulent transactions on cards that had all previously been used at Sonic,” Krebs on Security wrote.
About 5 million credit and debit card details recently put up for sale on the underground online site Joker’s Stash has been tied to a breach at Sonic Drive-In, according to Krebs on Security.
“I should note that it remains unclear whether Sonic is the only company whose customers’ cards are being sold in this particular batch of five million cards at Joker’s Stash,” Krebs on Security said. “There are some (as yet unconfirmed) indications that perhaps Sonic customer cards are being mixed in with those stolen from other eatery brands that may be compromised by the same attackers.”
Cyber criminals typically steal credit card details from merchants that accept cards by hacking into their point of sale systems.
What is Point of Sale
Point of sale, also known as POS, is a system used by merchants where customers pay for goods or services. The POS system consists of hardware and software. The POS hardware refers to the device used to swipe a credit or debit card and the computer or mobile device attached to it. The POS software refers to the computer program that instructs the hardware what to do with the data it captures.
Through the years, there have been a number of vulnerabilities identified in the POS system. The vulnerability of the POS system was highlighted with the arrest and conviction of Albert Gonzalez, leader of the group that stole more than 90 million card records from retailers.
The Gonzalez group took advantage of the lack of point to point encryption of POS system. If you pay using your credit card at a POS terminal, your credit card data housed in the card’s magnetic stripe is read, passed through a series of systems and networks before reaching the store’s payment processor.
In 2005, credit card details transmitted over a public network from a POS device are required to be encrypted using network-level encryption, for example, the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Within the internal network of the store, however, credit card details weren’t required to be encrypted except when stored.
The Gonzalez group took advantage of this lack of point to point encryption at the internal network level by installing network-sniffing tools that allowed him and his group to steal over 90 million card details. As a result of the Gonzalez group’s criminal activities, many stores today use POS system with encryption even at the internal network level.
Through the years though, POS attackers have honed their skills and a number of POS attack methods have been developed. Big companies like Target Corporation succumbed to POS attackers. In May of this year, 47 US states and the District of Columbia have reached a $18.5 million settlement with Target that resolves the states' investigation into the company's 2013 data breach, which affected more than 41 million customer payment card accounts.
How to Prevent POS Attacks?
Customers’ credit card data in the POS system passes through the following:
In each of these stages, customers’ credit card data becomes vulnerable to POS attackers. On the terminal level, attackers can insert hardware like skimmers or firmware to steal credit card details. As data passes from terminal to cash register or cash register to central payment processing server, the data may be stolen using network traffic sniffing tools like the one used by the Gonzales group. From the terminal to the internet exchange, there can be exposure of the encryption key. Credit card details may also be stolen via RAM scrapping malware from the cash register level or at the central payment processing server level.
From terminal to internet exchange, mitigation strategy includes a firewall. At the cash register level or central payment processing server level, mitigating strategy includes endpoint security software. From cash register to central payment processing server, mitigating strategies include data encryption and the use of SSL. From terminal to internet exchange, mitigating strategy includes security information and event management (SIEM).
Network segmentation is also one of the mitigating strategies to counter POS attacks. The network segmentation of the Whole Foods’ bars and restaurants from Whole Foods supermarket and Amazon.com has prevented attacks on the other two Amazon assets. Target, meanwhile, in the 2013 data breach didn’t implement network segmentation.
When you need help protecting your missing critical applications and infrastructure, give us a call to speak with one of our cyber security and compliance experts.
Steve E. Driz