TreasureHunt PoS Malware targets small retailers and banks

Pierluigi Paganini March 30, 2016

Security experts at FireEye have spotted the activity of a criminal organization that using the custom PoS malware TreasureHunt to target small retailers.

Security experts at FireEye have spotted the activity of a criminal organization that using custom PoS malware family to target retailers. Hackers are using the PoS malware dubbed TreasureHunt or TreasureHunter to steal payment card data and sells it on criminal underground forums. 

The researchers found evidence that the threat has been around since at least late 2014. TreasureHunt was first discovered by researchers at the SANS Institute who noticed the malware generating mutex names to evade detection.

US retailers and merchants are adopting payment solutions based on the EMV standard that relies on chip-equipped cards, and for this reason, are considered more secure.

A number of factors are hampering the introduction of EMV among small organizations.; the most important is probably is the high cost of the migration that it has been estimated at 8.6 billion dollars.

Consider that the cost of a single POS system that is compatible with EMV technology can reach hundreds of dollars and major retailers like Target will have to pay tens of millions of dollars in hardware. Also, don’t underestimate the additional cost of the introduction of the technology and its test in the live environment.

On the other end, banks will have to spend tens of millions to upgrade their internal systems to manage EMV payment card transactions.

Unfortunately, many cybercriminal groups have started focusing their efforts on organizations that are slow to make the transition, such as smaller banks and retailers. TreasureHunt is one of the tools used by malicious actors in attacks aimed at such organizations.

Clearly, many organizations are slower in adopting the new standards and crooks are trying to exploit this delay targeting retailers and banks that are slow to make the transition.

TreasureHunt enumerates the processes running on the infected systems and implement memory scraping functions to extract credit and debit card information. Stolen payment card data are sent to C&C servers through HTTP POST requests.

“In this article, we examine TREASUREHUNT, POS malware that appears to have been custom-built for the operations of a particular “dump shop,” which sells stolen credit card data. TREASUREHUNT enumerates running processes, extracts payment card information from memory, and then transmits this information to a command and control server.” FireEye researcher Nart Villeneuve explained in a blog post.

TreasureHunt malware PoS

The experts at FireEye believe that criminals compromised the PoS using stolen or weak credentials, once the TreasureHunt malware infected the systems, it installs itself in the “%APPDATA%” directory and maintains persistence by creating the registry entry:


“The malware scans all running processes and ignores processes that contain System33, SysWOW64, or \Windows\explorer.exe in their module names. It searches for payment card data and, if found, sends the data encoded back to the CnC server,” FireEye researcher Nart Villeneuve explained in a blog post.

All the TreasureHunt samples have the same compilation timestamp, October 19, 2014., but experts were able to compile a timeline activity of the PoS malware by analyzing VirusTotal submissions and C&C domain registration details.

“While the compile timestamp remains the same as the previous version, the samples were first observed on Nov. 25, 2015, and March 3, 2016. The only significant change in this version is that the malware stores encoded configuration data in the NTFS alternate data streams (ADS) of the file %USERPROFILE%\ntuser.ini. We refer to these samples as version 0.1.1” due to the presence of the following string:

        TreasureHunter version 0.1.1 Alpha, created by Jolly Roger
        ([email protected]) for BearsInc. Greets to Xylitol and co.”

“Jolly Roger” seems to be the author of the malware, likely a member of a hacker crew called “BearsInc” which has been offering stolen payment card data on black markets.

With an increasing number of major firms moving to EMV solution, security researchers expect to see criminals organizations increasingly targeting smaller retailers and banks that are still waiting to adopt a secure technology.


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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – TreasureHunt, PoS malware)

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