US-CERT Warns Businesses: POS Attacks

United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) recently warned retailers to put better security on their POS systems. Target company’s home-point-of-sale systems are now on the list of attackers.


The advisory states that POS systems are attached to computer or devices that are capable of downloading email and connecting to the Internet, which might carry malicious links or attachments. Many existing malicious websites can be a source of malware attacks in your POS system. The return investment is much bigger for a criminal to infect a particular POS system that will gather card data from multiple consumers.


The organization noted that there are circumstances that criminals intentionally attached a physical device to the POS system to collect card data or the so-called, skimming. Sometimes cyber criminals send malware, which gets card data as it passes through a POS system, and then it will withdraw the desired data back to criminal. Other suspects are also assigned to create a fake credit card and debit cards using the stolen information on it.


Last Dec. 15, malware was discovered in the POS system of Target Company.  The company took action through disabling the existing malicious code and began the process of notifying car processors and payment card networks. Malware affected almost 40 million debit and credit card accounts. This incident is one of the recent example of POS attack which followed the similar incident last 2012 when hackers hit the point-of-sale systems at Barnes and Noble and compromised credit card readers at 63 stores.


Mark Bower of Voltage Security said that POS systems should be separated from other networks to restrict access to payment data flows, because most owners tend to connect it with many systems. It is also necessary that your POS system provider can be trusted and has good security maintenance on the software and systems.


These systems are in constant use during holidays and heavy shopping periods where consumers have lots of time to spend in mall or restaurants. To get the profit out of the attacks, well informed retailers are using point-to-point encryption to protect data before even gets to the POS system.


US-CERT suggested organizations to restrict POS access to the Internet, deactivate remote access and update POS software applications. As a business owner, you are reliable to the safety of your customers but it is the burden of the POS system provider to assure that you get what you paid for.  You may want to try Kroid Cloud, which is now giving a free trial version of its software at