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Attack Types & VectorsSecurity

The Origin of Ransomware and Its Impact on Businesses

October 4, 2018 — by Fabio Palozza2

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In previous articles we’ve mentioned how Ransomware has wreaked havoc, invading systems and putting organizations’ reputation and stability at stake. In this article, we’ll start with the basics and describe what ransomware is and how it is used by cybercriminals to attack tens of thousands of systems by taking advantage of system-vulnerabilities.

[You might also like: Top Cryptomining Malware. Top Ransomware]

Ransomware is defined as a form of malicious software that is designed to restrict users from accessing their computers or files stored on computers till they pay a ransom to cybercriminals. Ransomware typically operates via the crypto virology mechanism, using symmetric as well as asymmetric encryption to prevent users from performing managed file transfer or accessing particular files or directories. Cybercriminals use ransomware to lock files from being used assuming that those files have extremely crucial information stored in them and the users are compelled to pay the ransom in order to regain access.

The History

It’s been said that Ransomware was introduced as an AIDS Trojan in 1989 when Harvard-educated biologist Joseph L. Popp sent 20,000 compromised diskettes named “AIDS Information – Introductory Diskettes” to attendees of the internal AIDS conference organized by the World Health Organization. The Trojan worked by encrypting the file names on the customers’ computer and hiding directories. The victims were asked to pay $189 to PC Cyborg Corp. at a mailbox in Panama.

From 2006 and on, cybercriminals have become more active and started using asymmetric RSA encryption. They launched the Archiveus Trojan that encrypted the files of the My Documents directory. Victims were promised access to the 30-digit password only if they decided to purchase from an online pharmacy.

After 2012, ransomware started spreading worldwide, infecting systems and transforming into more sophisticated forms to promote easier attack delivery as the years rolled by. In Q3, about 60,000 new ransomware was discovered, which doubled to over 200,000 in Q3 of 2012.

The first version of CryptoLocker appeared in September 2013 and the first copycat software called Locker was introduced in December of that year.

Ransomware has been creatively defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as a new model of cybercrime with a potential to cause impacts on a global scale. Stats indicate that the use of ransomware is on a steady rise and according to Veeam, businesses had to pay $11.7 on average in 2017 due to ransomware attacks. Alarmingly, the annual ransomware-induced costs, including the ransom and the damages caused by ransomware attacks, are most likely to shoot beyond $11.5 billion by 2019.

The Business Impacts can be worrisome

Ransomware can cause tremendous impacts that can disrupt business operations and lead to data loss. The impacts of ransomware attacks include:

  • Loss or destruction of crucial information
  • Business downtime
  • Productivity loss
  • Business disruption in the post-attack period
  • Damage of hostage systems, data, and files
  • Loss of reputation of the victimized company

You will be surprised to know that apart from the ransom, the cost of downtime due to restricted system access can bring major consequences. As a matter of fact, losses due to downtime may cost tens of thousands of dollars daily.

As ransomware continues to become more and more widespread, companies will need to revise their annual cybersecurity goals and focus on the appropriate implementation of ransomware resilience and recovery plans and commit adequate funds for cybersecurity resources in their IT budgets.

Read “Consumer Sentiments: Cybersecurity, Personal Data and The Impact on Customer Loyalty” to learn more.

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Attack Types & VectorsBotnetsSecurity

IoT Botnets on the Rise

October 2, 2018 — by Daniel Smith1

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Over the last two years, the criminal community has shifted its focus away from exploit kits as a mean of payload delivery and began focusing on exploiting IoT devices for the purpose of botnet development.

Botnets are all the rage and have become more advanced than the days of Sub7 and Pretty Pack. They possess the capability to target multiple devices on different architectures and infect them with a diverse range of payloads. But why are exploit kits falling out of favor and where is the evolution of botnets going?

Exploit kits in general are prepackaged toolkits that focus on compromising a device with a specific set of exploits. Typically, a victim is directed in a number of different ways to an attack page where the exploit kit will target an application in a browser such as Adobe Flash, Java or Silverlight. Once the victim is compromised by the exploit kit, it will drop and run a malicious payload on the targeted machine. What that payload is depends on the criminal or the person leasing the exploit kit for the day, but today they are mainly used to distribute ransomware or crypto mining payloads.

Exploit kits, a once popular avenue for an attack are now barely used due to the popularity of other attack vectors. Another major reason for the decrease in exploit kits activity is a result of authors abandoning their projects. But why did they abandon their project? Many experts would agree that this was the result of updated browser security and limited availability of undisclosed exploits needed to update their kits.

Unlike IoT devices, Adobe and Java exploits tend to be patched as soon as they become aware of the problem. This is a major challenge for criminals and one that involves a lot of effort and research on the criminals’ behalf. So the attacker is left with a choice. Invest time and research into an undiscovered exploit, or target devices that are rarely maintained patched or updated.

Enter: The IoT Botnet

Today modern botnets are mainly comprised of infected IoT devices such as cameras, routers, DVRs, wearables and other embedded technologies. The evolution in the botnet landscape highlights the security risks from millions of Internet-connected devices configured with default credentials or manufactures who won’t issue updates. Hackers can build enormous botnets consisting of a wide variety of devices and architectures because of this.

In comparison to web browser exploits, IoT devices come with poor security features such as open ports and default credentials. They are also poorly maintained and hardly receive updates. The process of capturing devices for a botnet is a fairly simple task that’s mainly automated. Hackers typically compromise these devices via brute force login. They have also recently evolved to inject exploit via open ports to compromise devices. They leverage these exploits typically after a researcher discloses a vulnerability.

Overall it is an automated process in which a bot is scanning the internet to identify potential targets and sending that information back to a reporting process. If a match is found, the device is exploited with an injection exploit and a malicious payload is downloaded to the device. The payloads downloaded today can vary, but it mainly gives the bot-herder the ability to remotely control the infected device just like a traditional PC botnet.

IoT botnets continue to evolve and they are becoming more versatile. It wasn’t long ago when Mirai reached the 1tbps mark but the process of how it was done has improved, leading many of us in the industry to worry about the next super attack.

[You might also like: The Evolution of IoT Attacks]

Mirai was simply a botnet comprised of infected IoT devices who left telnet open and utilized 61 default credentials found on popular devices. Because the port was left open to the world and users didn’t change their password, the attacker was able to capture a large number of exposed devices.

Before Mirai’s success, there was Gafgyt and Aidra. Both of these are IoT botnets as well. They spread by infecting vulnerable routers with default credentials. These botnets were successful.  In fact, Gafgyt still continues to move in lockstep with Mirai.  However, after the publication of the Mirai source code, the field became over saturated and bot-herders started incorporating patches to prevent other malware and herders from infecting their captured device. This change forced herders to look for a new way of capturing devices.

Shortly after, new Mirai variants started appearing. This time, instead of using default credentials they started incorporating exploits to target vulnerable devices. Attacker Best Buy used a modified variant that leveraged the TR-069 RCE exploit in an attempted to infect hundreds of thousands of Deutsche Telekom routers. Following Best Buy, IoT reaper appeared with borrowed code from Mirai, but this time included the addition of a LUA execution environment so more complex exploits could be leveraged to enslave devices. As a result, IoT reaper came loaded with nine exploits.

Hajime was not as elaborate as IoT reapers but it did combine the default credentials found in the original Mirai sample and the TR-069 Exploit leveraged by Best Buy. The Omni Botnet, another variant of Mirai was found to contain two new exploits targeting Dasan GPON routers. And just recently a Mirai sample was discovered and found to contain 16 exploits, including the Apache Strut vulnerability used against Equifax while the newest variant of Gafgyt was found to contain an exploit targeting SonicWalls Global Management System.

[You might also like: Defending Against the Mirai Botnet]

These two recent discoveries highlight a major change in their targeting strategy. This indicated a shift from targeting consumer devices to unprotected and rarely updated enterprise devices putting more pressure on the industry to ensure devices are updated in a timely manner.

Today we see Botnet development filling the void of Exploit kits as they incorporate more attack vectors and exploits into their deployments.  Keep in mind that it’s not just about the multiple exploits. It also has to do with the speed in which exploitation occurs in the wild.

One of the main reasons we are seeing exploit kits fall out of favor is due to the improved browser security and speed in which the industry patches vulnerabilities targeting Flash, Java and Silverlight. This is not seen in the IoT botnet world where vulnerabilities are rarely patched.

At the end of the day, cybercriminals are following the money by taking the path of least resistance. Exploit kits over the last several years have been deemed high maintenance and hard to maintain due to improved security practices and a diminishing availability of private exploits.

We are also seeing cybercriminals looking to maximize their new efforts and infection rate by targeting insecure or unmaintained IoT devices with a wide variety of payloads ranging from crypto mining and ransomware to denial of service and fraud.

In the recent months, we have also seen a handful of botnets targeting enterprise devices which indicated an intention to move from targeting consumer devices to target enterprise devices that are poorly maintained and rarely updated.

Read: “When the Bots Come Marching In, a Closer Look at Evolving Threats from Botnets, Web Scraping & IoT Zombies”

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Attack Types & VectorsBotnetsDDoSSecurity

The Evolution of IoT Attacks

August 30, 2018 — by Daniel Smith3

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What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? IoT is the ever-growing network of physical devices with embedded technologies that connect and exchange data over the internet. If the cloud is considered someone else’s computer, IoT devices can be considered the things you connect to the internet beyond a server or a PC/Laptop. These are items such as cameras, doorbells, light bulbs, routers, DVRs, wearables, wireless sensors, automated devices and just about anything else.

IoT devices are nothing new, but the attacks against them are. They are evolving at a rapid rate as growth in connected devices continues to rise and shows no sign of letting up. One of the reasons why IoT devices have become so popular in recent years is because of the evolution of cloud and data processing which provides manufacturers cheaper solutions to create even more ‘things’. Before this evolution, there weren’t many options for manufacturers to cost-effectively store and process data from devices in a cloud or data center.  Older IoT devices would have to store and process data locally in some situations. Today, there are solutions for everyone and we continue to see more items that are always on and do not have to store or process data locally.

[You might also like: The 7 Craziest IoT Device Hacks]

Cloud and Data Processing: Good or Bad?

This evolution in cloud and data processing has led to an expansion of IoT devices, but is this a good or a bad thing? Those that profit from this expansion would agree that this is positive because of the increase in computing devices that can assist, benefit or improve the user’s quality of life. But those in security would be quick to say that this rapid rise in connected devices has also increased the attack landscape as there is a lack of oversight and regulation of these devices. As users become more dependent on these IoT devices for daily actives, the risk also elevates. Not only are they relying more on certain devices, but they are also creating a much larger digital footprint that could expose personal or sensitive data.

In addition to the evolution of IoT devices, there has been an evolution in the way attacker’s think and operate. The evolution of network capabilities and large-scale data tools in the cloud has helped foster the expansion of the IoT revolution. The growth of cloud and always-on availability to process IoT data has been largely adopted among manufacturing facilities, power plants, energy companies, smart buildings and other automated technologies such as those found in the automotive industry. But this has increased the attack surfaces for those that have adopted and implemented an army of possible vulnerable or already exploitable devices. The attackers are beginning to notice the growing field of vulnerabilities that contain valuable data.

In a way, the evolution of IoT attacks continues to catch many off guard, particularly the explosive campaigns of IoT based attacks. For years, experts have warned about the pending problems of a connected future, with IoT botnets as a key indicator, but very little was done to prepare for it.  Now, organizations are rushing to identify good traffic vs malicious traffic and are having trouble blocking these attacks since they are coming from legitimate sources.

As attackers evolve, organizations are still playing catch up. Soon after the world’s largest DDoS attack, and following the publication of the Mirai source code, began a large battle among criminal hackers for devices to infect. The more bots in your botnet, the larger the attack could be.  From the construction of a botnet to the actual launch an attack, there are several warning signs of an attack or pending attack.

As the industry began monitoring and tracking IoT based botnets and threats, several non-DDoS based botnets began appearing. Criminals and operators suddenly shifted focus and began infecting IoT devices to mine for cryptocurrencies or to steal user data. Compared to ransomware and large-scale DoS campaigns that stem from thousands of infected devices, these are silent attacks.

Unchartered Territory

In addition to the evolving problems, modern research lacks standardization that makes analyzing, detecting and reporting complicated. The industry is new, and the landscape keeps evolving at a rapid rate causing fatigue in some situations. For instance, sometimes researchers are siloed, and research is kept for internal use only which can be problematic for the researcher who wants to warn of the vulnerability or advise on how to stop an attack. Reporting is also scattered between tweets, white papers, and conference presentations. To reiterate how young this specialty is, my favorite and one of the most respected conferences dedicated to botnets, BotConf, has only met 6 times.

EOL is also going to become a problem when devices are still functional but not supported or updated. Today there are a large number of connected systems found in homes, cities and medical devices that at some point will no longer be supported by the manufacturers yet will still be functional. As these devices linger unprotected on the internet, they will provide criminal hackers’ a point of entry into unsecured networks. Once these devices pass EOL and are found online by criminals, they could become very dangerous for users depending on their function.

In a more recent case, Radware’s Threat Research Center identified criminals that were targeting DLink DSL routers in Brazil back in June. These criminals were found to be using outdated exploits from 2015. The criminals were able to leverage these exploits against vulnerable and unpatched routers 4 years later. The malicious actors attempted to modify the DNS server settings in the routers of Brazilian residents, redirecting their DNS request through a malicious DNS server operated by the hackers. This effectively allowed the criminals to conduct what’s called a man in the middle attack, allowing the hackers to redirect users to phishing domains for local banks so they could harvest credentials from unsuspecting users.

[You might also like: IoT Hackers Trick Brazilian Bank Customers into Providing Sensitive Information]

Attackers are not only utilizing old and unpatched vulnerabilities, but they are also exploiting recent disclosures. Back in May, vpnMentor published details about two critical vulnerabilities impacting millions of GPON gateways. The two vulnerabilities allowed the attackers to bypass authentication and execute code remotely on the targeted devices. The more notable event from this campaign was the speed at which malicious actors incorporated these vulnerabilities. Today, actors are actively exploiting vulnerabilities within 48 hours of the disclosure.

What Does the Future Hold?

The attack surface has grown to include systems using multiple technologies and communication protocols in embedded devices. This growth has also led to attackers targeting devices for a number of different reasons as the expansion continues. At first hackers, mainly DDoS’er would target IoT devices such as routers over desktops, laptops, and servers because they are always on, but as devices have become more connected and integrated into everyone’s life, attackers have begun exploring their vulnerabilities for other malicious activity such as click fraud and crypto mining. It’s only going to get worse as authors and operators continue to look towards the evolution of IoT devices and the connected future.

If anything is an indication of things to come I would say it would be found in the shift from Ransomware to crypto mining. IoT devices will be the main target for the foreseeable future and attackers will be looking for quieter ways to profit from your vulnerabilities. We as an industry need to come together and put pressure on manufacturers to produce secure devices and prove how the firmware and timely updates will be maintained. We also need to ensure users are not only aware of the present threat that IoT devices present but also what the future impact of these devices will be as they approach end of life. Acceptance, knowledge, and readiness will help us keep the networks of tomorrow secured today.

Download “When the Bots Come Marching In, a Closer Look at Evolving Threats from Botnets, Web Scraping & IoT Zombies” to learn more.

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Attack Types & VectorsSecurity

Free DNS Resolver Services and Data Mining

August 22, 2018 — by Lior Rozen1

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Why would companies offer free DNS recursive servers? DNS data is extremely valuable for threat intelligence. If a company runs a recursive DNS for consumers, it can collect data on new domains that “pop up”. It can analyze trends, build baselines on domain resolution and enrich its threat intelligence overall (machine learning and big data are often used here). Companies can also sell this data to advertisers to measure site ratings and build user profiles.

The DNS resolver market for consumers is ruled by ISPs, as well as some other known servers by Google (8.8.8.8) and Level3 (CenturyLink). Since Cisco bought OpenDNS in August 2015, it has also become a major player, offering DNS services for individuals and organizations with its cloud security platform, Umbrella. Cisco OpenDNS focuses on malware prevention, as well as parental control for consumers. Akamai is also involved in the market, offering both recursive DNS for enterprises (a rather new service, based on a 2015 acquisition of Xerocole), and authorizes DNS services for their CDN clients. In several publications, Akamai claims to see more than 30% of internet data and is using this data as an add-on feed to its KONA service.

[You might also like: DNS and DNS Attacks]

In the Fall of 2017, IBM announced its new quad 9 (9.9.9.9) DNS service. This security-focused DNS uses IBM’s threat intelligence to prevent revolving known malicious domains (and protect against Malware) with approximately 70 servers worldwide. It claims to offer decent speed, and IBM has promised not to store any personal information (PII). On April 1, 2018, Cloudflare came out with a new quad 1 resolver – 1.1.1.1– that focuses on speed. With more than 1,000 servers, it promises to be the fastest resolver to any location. Additionally, Cloudflare promises never to sell the resolving user data, and to delete the resolver logs every 24 hours. Several independent measurements have confirmed Cloudflare’s success on speed which is typically the fastest after the ISP resolver. The one issue with a large number of servers is diffusion time as quad 1 takes significantly more time than other DNS providers to update about changing DNS records.

Another DNS initiative is DoH – DNS over HTTPS. This is a new standard proposal which is reviewed as the encrypted version of DNS (like HTTPS to HTTP). The focus here is both on privacy and security as DNS requests are done over HTTPS to prevent any interception of the request. If a user is using a different DNS, the ISP can still track the clear-text DNS requests, log them, or override them to use its own DNS resolver. The DoH protocol prevents this. Two major cloud DNS recursive servers support this protocol – the recent quad 1 by Cloudflare and Google’s DNS, as well as some other smaller ones. Mozilla recently ran a PoC with native Firefox support for DoH which was described here by Ars Technica.

[You might also like: DNS Reflective Attacks]

As we’ve shown, the DNS continues to evolve, both as a spec and as a service. Companies continue to invest a lot of money in collecting DNS data as they see the value in it. While each company provides a slightly different service, most are looking to mine the data for their own purposes. In order to do that, companies will be happy to provide the DNS service for free and compete in this saturated market.

Read “Radware’s 2017-2018 Global Application & Network Security Report” to learn more.

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Attack MitigationAttack Types & VectorsSecurity

Top Cryptomining Malware. Top Ransomware.

August 21, 2018 — by Fabio Palozza2

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In 2018, cryptominers have emerged as the leading attack vector used by cybercriminals to gain access into others systems. Cryptominers are getting advanced makeovers by cybercriminals doing their best to develop innovative cryptominers with ground-breaking capabilities. The recently-discovered cryptominers are not only known for their advanced features, but also for their capabilities to attack a wide range of systems including cloud-based platforms, mobile devices, industrial IT-infrastructure, and servers.

It’s not surprising that cybercriminals have started targeting cloud infrastructures which are based on rich classes of strong computing resources and companies that use cloud platforms to store confidential information. Two of the most striking data breaches that we witnessed this past year were the Monero-miner attack on Tesla’s cloud servers and the data-leak incident that affected FedEx customers.

[You Might Also Like: Malicious Cryptocurrency Mining: The Road Ahead]

Top Cryptomining Malware That Is Dominating the Cybercrime Scene in 2018

The most popular web-based Monero currency miner, Coinhive, undoubtedly occupies the first spot regionally and globally with 25 percent of the companies being affected. With the introduction of Coinhive’s JavaScript mining code in September 2017, the code has been incorporated into thousands of websites allowing cybercriminals to capitalize on visitors’ computing resources. Additionally, the code can be used as substitutes for online advertisements that cybercriminals use to lure visitors to click malicious links. In 2018, threat actors have delivered Coinhive in innovative ways through Google’s DoubleClick service and Facebook Messenger, with code embedded in websites or by hiding code inside YouTube ads. Along with Coinhive, other miners, including Jesscoin and Cryptoloot, have been dominating the malicious cryptomining landscape this year, affecting almost 40 percent of businesses and consumers across the globe.

[You Might Also Like: Raising the Bar for Ethical Cryptocurrency Mining]

RIG Exploit Kit is increasingly being used by cybercriminals to capitalize on system vulnerabilities both regionally and globally. RIG Exploit kits typically work by redirecting people to a landing page that features an embedded JavaScript, the main purpose of which is to identify security flaws in the browser. Cybercriminals use RIG kits to deliver exploits for Internet Explorer, Java, Flash, and Silverlight.  RIG Exploit kits ruled the cybercrime scene in the first half of 2018, moving payloads such as cryptominers and Smoke Loader down the ranking.

XMRig, which is an open-source application for CPU-mining, occupies the third spot across all regions in the United States. The XMrig mining code, which gained popularity in early 2018, has been widely used by a number of crypto-strains, including RubyMiner which is specifically designed to target unpatched Linus servers and Windows. According to Check Point, cybercriminals targeted 30 percent of all business networks to utilize server capacities to support their mining operations.

When it comes to ransomware, Locky, which was first introduced in 2016, occupies the first spot in regional and global lists. Wannacry, which came into the scene in 2017 and made its way to thousands of systems continues to hold a high rank this year.

Read “Consumer Sentiments: Cybersecurity, Personal Data and The Impact on Customer Loyalty” to learn more.

Download Now

Attack Types & VectorsSecurity

Malicious Cryptocurrency Mining: The Road Ahead

August 14, 2018 — by Fabio Palozza0

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As cryptomining continues to rule the cybercrime scenario, cybercriminals are designing innovative ways to drain people’s cryptowallets. Scammers are still doing their best to make the most out of their resources to launch leading-edge scam attempts. The increase in scams is mainly attributed to the failure in implementing appropriate fraud protection measures and unfortunately, popular cryptomining platforms including Coinbase and Bitcoin lack the necessary security features that they need to prevent fraudulent cryptomining activities.

Attack Types & VectorsSecurity

Can SNMP (Still) Be Used to Detect DDoS Attacks?

August 9, 2018 — by Pascal Geenens3

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SNMP is an Internet Standard protocol for collecting information about managed devices on IP networks. SNMP became a vital component in many networks for monitoring the health and resource utilization of devices and connections. For a long time, SNMP was the tool to monitor bandwidth and interface utilization. In this capacity, it is used to detect line saturation events caused by volumetric DDoS attacks on an organization’s internet connection. SNMP is adequate as a sensor for threshold-based volumetric attack detection and allows automated redirection of internet traffic through cloud scrubbing centers when under attack. By automating the process of detection, mitigation time can considerably be reduced and volumetric attacks mitigated through on-demand cloud DDoS services. SNMP provides minimal impact on the device’s configuration and works with pretty much any network device and vendor. As such, it is very convenient and gained popularity for deployments of automatic diversion.

Attack Types & VectorsDDoSSecurity

DNS: Strengthening the Weakest Link

August 2, 2018 — by Radware0

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One in three organizations hit by DDoS attacks experienced an attack against their DNS server. Why is DNS such an attractive target? What are the challenges associated with keeping it secure? What attack vectors represent the worse of the worst when it comes to DNS assaults? Based on research from Radware’s 2017-2018 Global Application & Network Security Report, this piece answers all those questions and many more.

Attack Types & VectorsSecurity

What Should You Do When Your Identity Has Been Compromised?

July 26, 2018 — by Daniel Smith0

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Almost every day, someone calls me to inquire about how to deal with a compromised identity. It has become so common that I have come to the point of just assuming everyone has had their identity compromised in some way, shape or form after the last few years of large-scale data breaches[1].

In 2018, the trend of large data breaches continues with electronic toymaker Vtech settling for $650,000 after suffering a data breach that resulted in exposed personal information about millions of children. Just in the last few months, major breaches targeting payment processing systems at Chili’s, Rail Europe and Macy’s have occurred, resulting in the exposure of customers’ credit card details such as card numbers, CCV codes, expiration dates and in some cases additional information like addresses, phone numbers and emails.