FBI Warns US Retailers To Expect Future Cyber Attacks

Warning comes in the wake in massive hack of Target customer data

The FBI has warned US retailers about the possibility of further cyber security threats following a spate of attacks against American businesses.

In a confidential three-page report seen by Reuters entitled ‘Recent Cyber Intrusion Events Directed Toward Retail Firms’ and dated 17 January, the agency said it had witnessed around 20 cases in the last year where businesses had their data stolen using malware similar to that recently used to steal millions of credit card details from Target customers.

The FBI fears that this malware may have been embedded into credit and debit card swiping-machines, cash registers and other point-of-sale (POS) equipment, meaning that the risk to customers could be higher than previously thought.

Easy targets

Target logoThe low cost of the virus code (one widely-used strain was on sale for just $6,000), its wide availability on underground markets and the potential for profit if successful make this method very attractive to thieves, said the FBI.

“We believe POS malware crime will continue to grow over the near term, despite law enforcement and security firms’ actions to mitigate it,” read the FBI report.

“The accessibility of the malware on underground forums, the affordability of the software and the huge potential profits to be made from retail POS systems in the United States make this type of financially motivated cybercrime attractive to a wide range of actors”.

Although the United States Secret Service usually takes the lead in credit card breach investigations, as is the case with the Target hack, the FBI is also sometimes required to assist or open its own case. A spokeswoman for the FBI confirmed the agency had issued the report as part of the efforts to share information about threats to the private sector.

The UK government has also recently looked to improve people’s awareness of proper cybersecurity protection, launching the Cyber Streetwise campaign.

“The internet has radically changed the way we work and socialise. It has created a wealth of opportunities, but with these opportunities there are also threats,” said security minister James Brokenshire on the day the campaign’s launch.

Are you a security expert? Try our quiz!