Cici’s Pizza, a Coppell, Texas-based fast-casual restaurant chain, today acknowledged a credit card breach at more than 135 locations. The disclosure comes more than a month after KrebsOnSecurity first broke the news of the intrusion, offering readers a sneak peak inside the sprawling cybercrime machine that thieves used siphon card data from Cici’s customers in real-time.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, Cici’s said that in early March 2016, the company received reports from several of its restaurant locations that point-of-sale systems were not working properly.
“The point-of-sale vendor immediately began an investigation to assess the problem and initiated heightened security measures,” the company said in a press release. “After malware was found on some point-of-sale systems, the company began a restaurant-by-restaurant review and remediation, and retained a third-party cybersecurity firm, 403 Labs, to perform a forensic analysis.”
According to Cici’s, “the vast majority of the intrusions began in March of 2016,” but the company acknowledges that the breach started as early as 2015 at some locations. Cici’s said it was confident the malware has been removed from all stores. A list of affected locations is here (PDF).
On July 3, 2016, KrebsOnSecurity reported that sources at multiple financial institutions suspected a card breach at Cici’s. That story featured a quote from Stephen P. Warne, vice president of service and support for Datapoint POS, a point-of-sale provider that services a large number of Cici’s locations. Warne told this author that the fraudsters responsible for the intrusions had tricked employees into installing the card-stealing malicious software.
On July 8, 2016, this author published Slicing Into a Point-of-Sale Botnet, which brought readers inside of the very crime machine the perpetrators were using to steal credit card data in real-time from Cici’s customers. Along with card data, the malware had intercepted private notes that Cici’s Pizza employees left to one another about important developments between job shifts.
Point-of-sale based malware has driven most of the credit card breaches over the past two years, including intrusions at Target and Home Depot, as well as breaches at a slew of point-of-sale vendors. The malware usually is installed via hacked remote administration tools. Once the attackers have their malware loaded onto the point-of-sale devices, they can remotely capture data from each card swiped at that cash register.
Thieves can then sell the data to crooks who specialize in encoding the stolen data onto any card with a magnetic stripe, and using the cards to buy gift cards and high-priced goods from big-box stores like Target and Best Buy.
Readers should remember that they’re not liable for fraudulent charges on their credit or debit cards, but they still have to report the phony transactions. There is no substitute for keeping a close eye on your card statements. Also, consider using credit cards instead of debit cards; having your checking account emptied of cash while your bank sorts out the situation can be a hassle and lead to secondary problems (bounced checks, for instance).