Restaurant Malware Attack Results in Theft of More Than 355,000 Credit and Debit Cards

A restaurant malware attack has resulted in the theft of the credit and debit card numbers of more than 355,000 customers, according to Krebs on Security. A breach was suspected to have occurred when credit unions and banks started to notice a flurry of fraudulent purchases. The breach was traced to the fast food restaurant chain Arbys.

While there have been numerous instances of credit card fraud reported in the past few days, the Arbys data breach was first identified in January. Industry partners contacted Arbys regarding a potential breach of credit/debit card numbers. At that point, the incident was only thought to have affected a handful of its restaurants.

The malware infection was soon uncovered and the FBI was notified, although the agency requested that Arby’s did not go public so as not to impede the criminal investigation. However, a statement has recently been released confirming that Arby’s is investigating a breach of its payment card systems.

Upon discovery of the breach, Arby’s retained the services of cybersecurity firm Mandiant to conduct a forensic analysis. The Mandiant investigation is continuing, although rapid action was taken to contain the incident and remove the malware from Arby’s payment card systems. The investigation revealed that the incident only impacted certain corporate-owned stores. None of the franchised stores were infected with malware. Arbys has more than 3,300 stores across the United States, more than 1,000 of which are corporate-owned.

PSCU, an organization serving credit unions, was the first to identify a potential breach after receiving a list of 355,000 stolen credit card/debit card numbers from its member banks. It is currently unclear when the restaurant malware attack first occurred, although the malware is currently thought to have been actively stealing data from October 25, 2016 until January 19, 2017, when the malware was identified and removed.

This is of course not the first restaurant malware attack to have been reported in recent months. The restaurant chain Wendys suffered a similar malware attack last year. That incident also resulted in the theft of hundreds of thousands of payment card details before the malware was discovered and removed. Similar payment card system malware infections were also discovered by Target and Home Depot and resulted in huge numbers of card details being stolen.

Details of how the malware was installed have not been released, although malware is typically installed when employees respond to spear phishing campaigns. Malware is also commonly installed as a result of employees clicking on malicious links contained in spam emails or being redirected to malicious sites by malvertising. In some cases, malware is installed by hackers who take advantage of unaddressed security vulnerabilities.

Once malware has been installed it can be difficult to identify, even when anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are in use. As was the case with the latest restaurant malware attack, data theft was only identified when cybercriminals started using the stolen payment card information to make fraudulent purchases.

Protecting against malware attacks requires multi-layered cybersecurity defenses. Good patch management policies are also essential to ensure that any security vulnerabilities are remediated promptly. Anti-spam and anti-phishing solutions can greatly reduce the volume of messages that make it through to employees’ inboxes, while malicious links and redirects can be blocked with a web filtering solution. A little training also goes a long way. All staff members with computer access should receive anti-phishing training and should be instructed on security best practices.

Regular scans should be performed on all systems to search for malware that may have evaded anti-virus and anti-malware solutions. Since a restaurant malware attack will target payment card systems, those should be frequently scanned for malware. Rapid detection of malware will greatly reduce the damage caused.

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Elizabeth Hernandez

Elizabeth Hernandez is a news writer on Defensorum. Elizabeth is an experienced journalist who has worked on many publications for several years. Elizabeth writers about compliance and the related areas of IT security breaches. Elizabeth's has a focus data privacy and secure handling of personal information. Elizabeth has a postgraduate degree in journalism. Elizabeth Hernandez is the editor of HIPAAZone. https://twitter.com/ElizabethHzone