Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) devices can be easily hacked and leave banks and retailers wide open to fraud, warn infosec researchers.
Security researchers from MWR InfoSecurity, the same security firm that researched serious vulnerabilities in chip-and-PIN devices back in 2012, demonstrated at last week’s SyScan security conference in Singapore how it was possible to compromise MPOS terminals with multiple attacking techniques using micro USBs, Bluetooth and a malicious programmable smart card.
Gaining control over the MPOS terminal would open the door to all manner of wrongdoing and shenanigans. For example, crybercriminals could potentially switch the device into insecure mode, capture the PIN code when entered and even enable it to accept stolen credit cards. During their demonstration, MWR InfoSecurity researchers were even able to use the device to play a simplified version of the popular game Flappy Bird.
“What we have found reveals that criminals can compromise the MPOS payment terminal and get full control over it,” explained MWR InfoSecurity in a statement about its research. “This would allow an attacker to gather PIN and credit card data, and event change the software on the device so that it accepts illegitimate payments.”
“This shows that card holders paying at MPOS terminals worldwide are potentially at risk,” MWR added. “Banks and retailers should also be wary when implementing this technology as it could leave them open to serious fraud.”
MWR’s cyber-ninjas discovered problems with the technology as part on an ongoing research programme into secure payment technologies. The security research firm has notified the vendors involved with detailed information about their research and advise on how the problems might be addressed.
MWR is withholding details on the vulnerabilities found as the devices concerned are currently being used at thousands of retail outlets in the UK and around the world.
A brief abstract of the SyScan talk – entitled Mission mPOSsible – provides a broad outline of the sorts of attacks that might be possible, without going into details. According to MWR:
If you saw our previous PinPadPwn research, you won’t be surprised to hear we discovered a series of vulnerabilities which allow us to gain code execution on these devices through each of the available input vectors. We will discuss the weaknesses of current solutions and have live demonstrations for multiple attack vectors, our favourite being a malicious credit card which drops a remote root shell on an embedded mPOS device.
A short video demo of MWR researchers playing a simplified version of Flappy Bird on a hacked MPOS terminal can be found here. ®