Backoff infections rise up to 57 percent increase in Q3

Security firm Damballa issued the ‘State of Infections Report Q3 2014’ that highlights a 57% increase in infections of the notorious Backoff POS malware.

Security experts at Damballa security firm detected a 57% increase in infections of the popular Backoff malware in the third quarter, the number of infections was jumped high from August to September and in this last month Backoff infections increased 27%.

The situation is very worrying, law enforcement fears an explosion of the number of infections worldwide, the US Secret Service estimated that as many as 1,000 US businesses may be compromised by Backoff malware. The malicious code was already used against major companies including UPS and Dairy Queen. This summer the US-CERT warned that threat actors were using remote desktop tools such as LogMeIn, Splashtop 2 and Apple Remote Desktop to deploy the PoS malware and syphon data.

The experts are concerned by the by the evasion techniques implemented by the author of the malware and by the lack of security measure implemented in many environments compromised by the malicious code.

“The increase is notable as it highlights that the malware had bypassed network prevention controls and was active, yet hidden, in the network.” states the official announcement from Damballa.

Many PoS systems targeted by the malware are exposed on the Internet for maintenance purpose, this enlarge their surface of attack exposing them to further risks.

“In many cases, the PoS systems are free-standing from the corporate network,” says Damballa CTO Brian Foster. “They connect to local networks, which have limited security. Without this visibility, it’s impossible to discover the device is communicating with criminal command and control.”


The report, one again highlight the urgency to assume a correct security posture, especially in those industries more impacted by the criminal activity like the retail sector. Companies must be aware of the cyber threats and about the TTPs (techniques, tactics and procedures) adopted by bad actors.

Companies fail to secure outbound network connections and encrypt PoS data, most POS malware, including BackOff malicious code, are advanced threats that allows bad actors to be persistent and undercover for a long time. Backoff, like many other POS malware,  is able to bypass prevention controls like anti-virus, IPS and firewalls that are adopted by almost every company.

” In a quick test performed in Damballa’s lab, a researcher tested Sinowal, a common malware file, and found that 45 of 55 antivirus products identified it as malware. Next, he created a new malware file by binding Sinowal to a Windows Help program file. He retested the new file and it was only detected by one of the 55 anti-virus products. The entire process of altering the malware file took less than two minutes.If the file had been opened by an unsuspecting end-user, the Windows Help file would have executed and in the background the malware file would have infected the device.”  states the report issued by Damballa.

POS malware is very insidious, attackers are using “constantly morphing malware because binaries change on a daily basis”, this means that malware is able to evolve over the time making hard its detection through continuous updates and repackaging activity.



Signature-based prevention is ineffective, threat intelligence analysis is the unique way to mitigate these threats.

Pierluigi Paganini

October 27, 2014

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