Identity Theft

600 Retailers Caught Up in Massive Malware Attack

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Hundreds of retailers have been the subject of attacks by difficult-to-detect malware, which steals customer information using popular remote-access applications like Microsoft Remote Desktop, Apple Remote Desktop, Splashtop, Join.me and others. The malware, called “Backoff,” is described in a new advisory from the Department of Homeland Security, compiled with the help of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, United States Secret Service, Financial Sector Information Sharing and Analysis Center, and Trustwave Spiderlabs.

Trustwave told Time magazine at least 600 retailers have had consumer information compromised by Backoff, many of which it said are independent stores, but victims include national chains as well. Attacks go back as far as October 2013, the Homeland Security report says, and they continue to be an issue, because technological defense systems are failing to block the malware.

“At the time of discovery and analysis, the malware variants had low to zero percent anti-virus detection rates, which means that fully updated anti-virus engines on fully patched computers could not identify the malware as malicious,” the advisory says.

Through the remote-access applications, suspects log into an administrator’s account to infiltrate the retailer’s point-of-sale (PoS) system, through which a variety of data is compromised, including names, mailing addresses, credit and debit card numbers, phone numbers and email addresses.

The Homeland Security advisory lists tips for companies looking to protect their data from Backoff, but as theĀ various data breaches of the past several months have taught us, consumers bear significant responsibility for protecting themselves against fraud.

While you hope a company will keep your personal information and credit card data safe, you should make a habit of frequently reviewing your card transactions, in addition to looking at your credit reports and credit scores for signs of fraud.

If something you don’t recognize pops up on your credit report, it could mean someone used your personal information to open fraudulent accounts. A sudden drop in your credit score could indicate the same thing, and it could also mean someone is racking up charges on one of your credit cards without your knowledge. To help you spot fraud, you can get two free credit scores every month through Credit.com, and you can request your free annual credit reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

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