Analysis on Retail Sector Attacks in 2014 reveals some worrying trends and raises questions as to whether the PCI DSS V3 has adapted enough to provide sufficient protection.

2014 Retail Sector Cyber Attacks

IBM Security Researchers in their Retail Industry Research and Intelligence Report, published January 6, have looked at the stats for cyber attacks during the whole of 2014 and separately, the Black Friday/Holiday Period.

The good news: Reported Retail breaches were down compared to 2012 and 2013.

The bad news: Successful breaches resulted in more stolen data

The results for 2013 and 2014 are skewed by the huge losses of payment card and personal information from Target (breach originated in 2013) and Home Depot, but even when these are factored out and the data analyzed for breaches where fewer than 10 Million records are stolen, the trend is still up for 2014.

The conclusion is that attacks are proving more effective and that hackers are becoming more sophisticated and focused in their attacks.

This is also evident in the attack vectors being employed - BlackPOS, Dexter, VSkimmer, and Alina have all been observed in many of the POS-related breaches reported last year, typically deployed using hijacked credentials for 3rd Party IT Service Providers. The report also mentions Citadel which was widely deployed using pirate Windows OS copies. LusyPOS and d4re|dev1l (dare devil) don't feature in the report.

SQL/Command Injection attacks are the most common attack being used but provide a relatively ineffective approach compared to POS-based malware.


Even though attacks are becoming more targeted and effective, if PCI DSS requirements are met and operated properly, breaches of the nature outlined above can be prevented or at least detected before damage is done. Applying a hardened build standard to POS systems, even those still based on the unsupported Windows XP, can be protected and sufficiently restricted in operational scope to prevent attacks from being effective. Coupled with file integrity monitoring, if a breach does succeed, malware and breach activity can be detected and dealt with before any damage is done.

Will the trends continue in 2015 or will Retailers get cyber security defense and breach detection measures nailed?

Read the full IBM 2014 Retail Research and Intelligence Report


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