Dexter malware resurfaces in South Africa, costs banks millions

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Banks in South Africa have suffered tens of millions in losses in rand (millions of US dollars) due to a variant of the Dexter virus – a piece of malware targeting point-of-sale (POS) devices that was discovered in December 2012 by Israel-based security technology company Seculert.

“We have seen several variants of Dexter in the past, so a new variant targeting specifically South Africa point-of-sales is not a surprise,” Aviv Raff, CTO with Seculert, told SCMagazine.com on Tuesday. “New variants of Dexter, including this one, show that this threat is evolving, adding new techniques to evade traditional security solutions.”

Most banks have been affected and hundreds of thousands of customers have had credit, debit and check cards compromised, according to reports, which also state that the attacks against POS machines in South African fast food restaurants have been traced back to Europe.

UK-based information security business Foregenix was called in to research and provide a solution to the problem, but a spokesperson with the company told SCMagazine.com on Tuesday that “this is an active investigation,” and deferred comment to a spokesperson at the Payments Association of South Africa, who did not respond to a SCMagazine.com request for comment.

Anti-virus solutions have been programmed to detect Dexter and its variants, but here the attackers used a variant that was able to fly under the radar. 

“My recommendation is to use security solutions which focus on full protection against advanced threats, rather than just prevention,” Raff said.

Raff's December 2012 analysis essentially determined that Dexter downloads files, sends information and checks memory for information, among other tasks. Specifically, the malware looks for Track 1 and Track 2 credit card data that cyber crooks can use to create cloned credit cards.

“Different variants of Dexter focus on different regions around the world,” Raff said. “We have seen Dexter variants that target English speaking countries, and others which target European countries only.”

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