POS Systems Fall Prey to “Dexter” Virus

And no, we’re not talking about the TV show.

Plowing through the United States over the past few months, a new form of infection is popping up inside the firmware of dozens of POS systems and credit card machines at restaurants nationwide. Analyzed by security researchers at Securlert, a program dubbed StarDust was initially in the limelight when 31 POS systems, short for point-of-sale, were infected with the bug last year.

“Approximately 20,000 credit cards may have been compromised via this Stardust variation and evidence has been sent to the card associations to determine the points of compromise”, said Dan Clements, president of IntelCrawler.”

This is of course just another version of the same “hack” that various criminal groups have been using for just about as long as credit cards were being swiped at the first swanky joints in New York. The thieves would call the general manager claiming to be the company who owns the register and the credit card machine, claiming there is something on their end of the line and they’ve “lost communication” with your main POS. They then ask to be read the model and serial number, and tell them the problem is “all-fixed”, thanking the manager for their time at the end of the troubleshooting session.


The same logic applies here, except instead of having to make a phone call and put themselves at risk for being traced, instead they simply forego the obvious hurdle and hack straight into the computer that handles nearly every transaction in the building by the time the tips are tallied.

Little do they know about 3 months later they’ll get a statement after ringing everything in saying they’re thousands of dollars over their limit and that all the transactions to pay for it had gone to another location. Most often this con would net perpetrators anywhere between $3-10,000 in one night, depending on the restaurant and how busy they were on any given Saturday. Along with the money, malware manufacturers also make off with a significant number of credit cards details and all the information they need to begin the process of stealing someone’s identity.

Researchers believe the virus gets onto your machines the same way most other spyware makes it onto professional networks: employee error. If you own a restaurant or food service outlet, you should always instruct your servers and managers what they can and can’t do on computers at work, and never get caught without a separate wifi network for the public and staff to use that is disconnected from the same servers used to communicate with credit card companies. You can also follow our VPN Guide for Small Businesses and learn how to protect yourself from Dexter and equally threatening cohorts in crime.