Hotel malware attacks have been hitting the headlines in the past two years as cybercriminals target hotels looking for payment card information. Now, InterContinental Hotels Group Plc has announced that a malware infection has potentially resulted in the theft of customers’ payment card details from 12 of its hotels in the United States. The hotel malware attacks affected guests at InterContinental Hotels as well as Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels.
The data breach affected the payment systems used by the hotel chain’s restaurants and bars, but did not extend to the front desk system used to process guests.
Malware was installed on the hotels’ servers which searched for and obtained customer track data from credit and debit card transactions. Customers’ card data – including names, card numbers, expiry dates and verification codes – were intercepted and potentially stolen using the malware. The malware was discovered in late December when the hotel chain hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate a potential data breach following an unusual level of fraud affecting the hotel chain’s customers. That investigation revealed malware had been installed as early as August 1, 2016 which remained active until December 15, 2016.
InterContinental has not disclosed whether the malware passed on any payment card information to the attackers nor how many customers had been impacted by the incident, only that servers at 12 of the chain’s hotels had been affected. Investigations into the security breach are continuing and the investigation has now been extended to other hotels owned by InterContinental in the Americas.
Hotels are commonly targeted by cybercriminals seeking payment card information. Last summer, InterContinental’s Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants were attacked with malware and similar incidents were reported last year by Marriot International’s Starwood Hotels as well as the Hyatt, Westin, and Sheraton hotel chains. Hotel malware attacks were reported by the Hilton chain and Trump Hotels in 2015.
Cybercriminals are most interested in POS systems used by hotels. Malware is installed that is capable of capturing payment card information and those data are then transferred to the attackers. All too often, malware is installed and stays active for months before it is detected. During that time, tens of thousands of hotel guests can be impacted and have fraudulent charges applied to their accounts.
While hotel customers are often covered by their card providers’ insurance policy, the fallout from these incidents can be considerable. When guests suffer credit card and debit card fraud as a result of visiting a particular hotel, they may take their business elsewhere.
Malware can be installed by cybercriminals via a number of different attack vectors. Direct attacks take advantage of security flaws in software and hardware. Last year, Cylance’s Sophisticated Penetration Exploitation and Research Team (SPEAR) identified a zero-day vulnerability in ANTLabs InnGate routers, which are used by many of the top hotel chains to provide Internet access for guests. The flaw could be exploited to gain access to guest’s smartphones, laptops, and tablets, or potentially be used to install malware that targets POS systems on hotel servers.
According to SPEAR, the flaw was being actively exploited and 277 hotels had been targeted across 29 countries, including more than 100 hotels in the United States. Eight out of the world’s top ten hotel chains were found to have systems vulnerable to this type of attack. A patch was promptly issued to correct the flaw and hotels were able to plug the security hole.
It may not be possible to prevent attacks that exploit zero-day vulnerabilities; however, there are steps that can be taken to reduce hotel malware attacks. Malware is often downloaded as a result of employees’ or guests’ actions. Malware may be deliberately installed, although all too often downloads occur silently as a result of employees and guests visiting malicious websites.
Blocking access to these websites will protect both the hotel and its guests from web-borne malware and ransomware attacks. If a web filter – such as WebTitan – is installed, all websites known to house malware will be blocked.
If you run a hotel or hotel chain, a web filter is an additional layer of security that should be seriously considered. A web filter will help to reduce the risk of malware and ransomware infections and keep hotel networks safe and secure for all users.