Why “have a safe trip” is taking on greater meaning

Whether travelling for business or pleasure in 2018, individuals are going to have to take their online security seriously, says Alastair Paterson, CEO and Co-Founder, Digital Shadows

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Have a safe trip! Typically, when we wish someone well before they leave on a journey we are referring to

their physical safety while in transit. But, increasingly, there’s another consideration – their online security.

Over the past year, compromises of payment card data from Point-of- Sale (POS) systems, network intrusions

against third-party suppliers, and cyber espionage campaigns against visitors using hotel Wi-Fi networks

have plagued the travel and hospitality industries. In the spirit of “forewarned is forearmed,” let’s take a

closer look at some of the most notable examples of each of these types of threats and how firms in these

industries can mitigate risk.

POS attacks:

Financially-motivated actors seeking to compromise payment card details use malware to extract this data

from POS systems or devices as well as physical skimming devices. Based on the 20 POS malware variants

that have been documented and numerous reports of breaches, the travel and hospitality industries have

been under siege. In the last six months alone a new variant, MajikPOS, and modifications to the RawPOS

variant and the Zeus banking trojan targeting POS systems, have emerged. Since August 2016, POS attacks

have reportedly affected 37 Best American Hospitality Corporation restaurants, 62 Kimpton hotel locations

and an unknown number of Chipotle Mexican Grill locations. Threat actors focused on these industries

include FIN7, TA530 and Vendetta Brothers who each use a range of tactics, techniques and procedures

(TTPs). As an example, the threat group FIN7 targets the hospitality industry through the following TTPs:

 Spearphishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Office documents

 Social engineering methods to ensure targets open an attachment and initiate the infection process

 Macro-enabled documents that download initial backdoor payloads onto recipient machines to

allow for continued access to systems

 Malware to move laterally through compromised networks

Network intrusions:

The most high-profile network intrusion in the past year involved a compromise of the Sabre Corporation,

reportedly affecting at least eight hospitality companies. Through unknown means, the attackers had

accessed account credentials that permitted access to payment card data and information for some

reservations processed by Sabre’s central reservation system. The company stated that not all compromised

records included CVV numbers, and no personal information, such as social security numbers, passport

numbers, or driver’s license numbers were accessed. This attack demonstrates a trend of third-party

supplier attacks in which financially-motivated actors impact multiple companies by compromising their

supplier to access sensitive or valuable data.

Wi-Fi network compromise:

Threat actors have also targeted hotel Wi-Fi networks in an information gathering and cyber espionage

campaign against travelers to Europe and the Middle East. Threat actors almost certainly choose to target

these networks because they are deemed less secure and can be leveraged to perform additional actions,

such as stealing credentials and moving laterally within networks. In this particular campaign, spearphishing

emails were used to deliver information-harvesting malware to victims. The attackers also purportedly used the

EternalBlue exploit, which targets the vulnerable Microsoft Server Message Block (SMB) protocol for lateral movement within target networks.

So what can you do to mitigate risk?

Layer security:

 While the Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) chip technology has made physical card fraud more

difficult, online card spending is on the rise. Consider using 3D Secure as an additional layer of

security which has proven to be a real obstacle for criminals and is deployed by Visa and Mastercard.

 To prevent lateral movement once inside the network, restricting workstation-to- workstation

communication by using host-based firewall rules is also encouraged where feasible.

 Implement an enterprise password management solution – not only for secure storage and sharing

but also strong password creation and diversity to mitigate the risk of credential compromise.


 With the help of Google Alerts or open source web crawlers like Scrapy, monitor for mentions of

your company on cardable websites (sites that track those that are susceptible to fraudulent

purchases as a result of lax security controls).

 Monitor for mentions of suppliers’ names on the open, deep and dark web to help identify if key

partners are being targeted by threat actors and if such activity may put your organization at risk.

 Proactively monitor for credential dumps relevant to your organization’s accounts.


 Routinely train employees about the risks of spam and spearphishing and how to avoid becoming a


 Because employees often reuse corporate credentials for personal use, establish and communicate

policies that restrict which external services are allowed to be associated to corporate email

accounts. Encourage staff to use consumer password management tools like 1Password or LastPass

to also manage personal account credentials.

Address vulnerabilities:

 Patching is an important part of your defense strategy and failing to do so opens the door wide for

adversaries. For example, Microsoft has issued a patch for the vulnerabilities exploited by

EternalBlue. Application of these patches prevents the exploitation of the SMB network service.

 Proper configuration is also critical. In the case of the SMB service, TCP port 445 should not be

reachable from the public Internet; where external access to SMB is required, a VPN or IP address

whitelisting should be used to restrict access. SMB traffic should, ideally, not be permitted to egress

from an organization’s network to the public Internet.

As long as payment card details and other proprietary information remain lucrative on criminal forums and

marketplaces, the travel and hospitality industry need to remain vigilant. But with greater awareness about

POS system attacks, operations against third-party suppliers, and the vulnerabilities of public or semi-public

Wi-Fi networks, companies can do a lot to mitigate risk and ensure safer journeys for travelers.

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