Unnamed Acquirer Processor Breach Timeline

2009-02-26 by d2d

Here's a timeline of what we've seen surrounding this vaguely disclosed breach. First, some terms:

CAMS: This is an acronym for a Visa implemented system, the "Compromised Account Management System". Alerts are distributed via this system to banks and other financial institutions to facilitate card reissuing and fraud detection. Mastercard also issues similar alerts.

Card Not Present: This term means exactly what you think it does. The card was not physically present during the transaction. This is typical in online shopping, telephone sales, etc.

UPDATE | February 11th, 2009: VISA blasts out a CAMS notice, which has been contributed to OSF anonymously:

"Date: February 11, 2009 Entity Type: Acquirer Processor - Fraud Reported: Yes, elevated fraud rates on this event Visa Fraud Control & Investigations has been notified of a confirmed network intrusion that may have put Visa account numbers at risk. The reported incident involves confirmed unauthorized access to a U.S. acquirer processors settlement system of stored transaction information that included Primary Account Numbers (PANs) and expiration dates. No magnetic stripe track data has been identified at risk in this alert. Fraud analysis has revealed elevated card-not-present fraud rates on this incident. Even though it is not known if any account information was actually removed during the intrusion, we must still consider the data to be at risk because of the elevated fraud. Based on the forensic investigative findings, the entity began storing PANs and expiration dates in February 2008. The forensic investigation is ongoing. Any new material information will be provided in a CAMS update to better assist you with fraud and risk mitigation."

February 11th, 2009: Fiserv blasted out this alert to their customers (banks, credit unions, processors, etc). We were tipped on this by multiple sources. The statement reads:

"The Risk Office Team has received information from Visa and MasterCard regarding the confirmed compromise of a U.S.-based acquirer processor. Please note that the compromised card alerts for this event are not related to the Heartland Data Systems’ breach. Given that confirmation of the Heartland breach and this new compromise occurred in such close proximity, it’s possible that the same card numbers could appear on compromised card lists associated for both events. You may wish to take this into consideration as you execute your organization’s monitoring and/or reissue plans for recently compromised cards."

February 12th, 2009: The Community Bankers Association of Illinois posts a notice that included the following:

"Today, VISA announced that an unnamed processor recently reported that it had discovered a data breach. The processor’s name has been withheld pending completion of the forensic investigation..."

Between 2-11 and 2-13: The Tuscaloosa Federal Credit Union releases a notice regarding the incident that reads:

"On the heels of the Heartland Payment Systems breach, another U.S. acquirer-processor has confirmed a network intrusion exposing primary card numbers and card expiration dates for card-not-present (CNP) transactions. Unlike the Heartland Payment breach, this breach does not expose magnetic stripe track data. The reported incident involves confirmed unauthorized access to a U.S. acquirer processor’s settlement system of stored transaction information that included Primary Account Numbers (PANs) and expiration dates. As the entity involved has not yet issued a press release, Visa and MasterCard are unable to release the name of the merchant processor. It is important to note that this event is not related to the Heartland Payment Systems breach."

February 13th, 2009: The Independent Community Bankers of America releases this on their website:

"ICBA learned of another security breach involving a merchant processor. The breach appears to be large, but not as large or severe as the recent breach at Heartland Payment Systems. The name of the breached processor is unknown at this time, but ICBA knows that: All accounts and all brands were equally exposed; however, only card numbers and expiration dates were captured. No track data was captured. Because there is no evidence of skimming counterfeit and all known fraudulent transactions have been key entered, Visa's ADCR program will not cover losses. However, compliance and “card not present” (depending on status of VbyV/SecureCode) chargeback rights should apply. MC issuers must file via compliance as they always do. Alerts for this new incident are being reported under Visa series US-2009-088 and MasterCard series MCA0150-US-09."

February 13th, 2009: The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association released this statement which we've retrieved from google cache, as the content of the old notice is now displaying a new notice about something else. The old notice read:

"Earlier this week, Visa and MasterCard began issuing accounts involved in a merchant processor breach. The reported incident involves confirmed unauthorized access to a U.S. acquirer processor’s settlement system of stored transaction information that included Primary Account Numbers (PANs) and expiration dates. No magnetic stripe track data has been identified at risk in this alert. As the entity involved has not yet issued a press release, Visa and MasterCard are unable to release the name of the merchant processor. It is important to note that this event is not related to the Heartland Payment Systems breach. While it has been confirmed that malicious software was placed on the processor’s platform, there is no forensic evidence that accounts were viewed or taken by the hackers. Since the final forensic report has not been provided there is no estimate available at this time of the number of accounts involved in this event. Law enforcement is activity engaged in an investigation into this situation. Visa began releasing affected accounts on Monday, February 9, 2009 under CAMS event series US- 2009-0088-IC. They expect to have all accounts released by Friday, February 13. MasterCard began releasing accounts on Wednesday, February 11, 2009 under MC Alert series MCA0150-US-09. They have not provided any information as to when they expect to have all their accounts released. The current window of exposure provided by both card associations is from February 2008 through January 2009. The only data elements at risk are account number and expiration date. No track data, PIN, CVV2/CVC2 data or cardholder-identifying information was captured. As in all events, it is the issuer’s decision whether or not a block and/or reissue decision is warranted. However, we would like to emphasize that this event carries a lower level of risk than the Heartland compromise."

February 13th, 2009: We posted a blog entry regarding what we've been hearing from tipsters, who are usually dead on about these things, but we did so only after corroborating that the tips we'd heard we're also being heard by others.

February 17th, 2009: The Alabama Credit Union posts a notice on their website that reads:

"Alabama Credit Union has been notified by VISA that some members' VISA credit card information may have been discovered during a breach at a card processor's site. VISA has not named the card processor."

February 17th, 2009: The Bankers' Bank of Kansas posts a notification which reads:

" Two large data compromises affecting credit and debit cards were announced the weeks of 1/21/09 and 2/09/09. BBOK BankCard actively monitors all alerts from Visa®, MasterCard®, and our processor for compromised card data...."

February 19th, 2009: The Alabama Credit Union follows up on their initial reporting with an update indicating how fraud is being committed as a result of this new breach, and it contains the following:

We have been notified by VISA that a lengthy list of VISA ATM/Debit Card numbers was included as part of a data breach at an unknown vendor's location. VISA has declined to name the vendor or processor. The fraudulent transactions are primarily characterized as purchases of prepaid phone cards, prepaid gift cards, and money orders from Wal-Mart, and usually occur in $100 increments.

February 22nd, 2009: We posted a follow-up to our original story, with new information (some of the above timeline items) gathered from databreaches.net.

February 24th, 2009: News reports are released about St. Mary's Credit Union receiving notification regarding this breach. The article writes:

"A breach of a credit card processing system at St. Mary's Credit Union yesterday affected up to 4,300 customers and likely cost the business more than $20,000....The credit union does not know the name of the processing system, but Battista said the breach likely affected people across the country..."

End of Timeline

This is what we know. Of course, there is a lot of speculation as to who the unnamed is. Our mailboxes here are on fire with speculation, and you can read the comments on some of our previous posts on the topic to see examples of it. We have no solid information regarding who the affected organization is. We do know that we've had two other major breaches recently involving this type of data, namely: RBS Worldpay and Heartland Payment Systems. We also know that in a statement to the consumerist, Visa and Heartland is adamant that this new breach was not them.

Ultimately, I think the banks will demand to know, considering the costs are mostly their burden to bear. But in the meantime, we wait.


by Anonymous on 2009-02-26 (about 5 years ago)

Nice job! A few points:
1. The St. Mary's report is probably not part of this timeline. When I was looking into that story after it appeared, I found another source that quoted the bank official as saying that they had been notified in "mid-January," which would seem to make it a Heartland incident and not part of this other situation.
2. On Feb. 22nd, NYS Consumer Protection confirmed to me that they were already receiving reports from banks that had been affected by the newest (non-Heartland) breach reports. I posted their statement http://www.databreaches.net/?p=1711
3. On Feb. 24th, Jai Vijayan located an Alabama Credit Union notice from Feb. 189th ( http://www.alabamacu.com/moreServices/idTheft.html ) and also obtained confirmation from both Visa and MasterCard. MasterCard's wording was more cautious and spoke of a "potential" breach. ( http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9128429&intsrc=news_ts_head )


by kmnixon [Apprentice Investigator] on 2009-02-26 (about 5 years ago)

Visa confirms another payment processor breach - SC Magazine

Another payment processor has fallen victim to hackers, Visa confirmed on Monday. Visa and MasterCard are notifying banks about accounts impacted by a "major compromise," unrelated to the massive Heartland Payment Systems incident announced last month, according to a number of credit unions and banking associations.

by Anonymous on 2009-02-27 (about 5 years ago)

Please advise where Visa or MasterCard state there has been a breach at another processor? None of their statements say these exact words.
So given the timelines and the way the breach happened (malware) it is most definately not beyond the realm of possiblity and more likely to be that Heartland was breached on mulitple levels, the latest being only discovered now that a propoer foresenic of the total network has been done and not just the decrypt to auth section..... Now that being the case niether the brands or Heartland would want to own up to that one!

by Anonymous on 2009-02-28 (about 5 years ago)

My analysis of the wording provided by both Visa/MC in their alerts would indicate that the processor appears to be RBS Worldpay again. Both Visa/MC appear to be adamant that the processor was not Heartland. Considering that the initial RBS Worldpay breach allowed the intruder to increase the limits on the accounts they used to extract a reported $9 million from ATMs, then it would seem they could have installed malware elsewhere in the system that was not previously detected or may have allowed the intruder to access the RBS system again, even perhaps while the system was being forensically analyzed.

by Anonymous on 2009-02-28 (about 5 years ago)

A point Visa was clear to make in an announcement I attended, was that because Mag-track data was NOT compromised in this additional unnamed breach, card-issuers should NOT expect reimbursement for the reissuance of cards as is the case with the Heartland and other past breaches. Visa recommended that any cases of Fraud be routed through the standard charge back process. I wonder if Visa will also then choose to waive any excessive charge back fees the merchants are asked to pay as a result of this advice?

by Anonymous on 2009-02-28 (about 5 years ago)

It gets better:

Via http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&taxonomyName=privacy&articleId=9128743&taxonomyId=84&intsrc=kc_top

"...Visa said in a statement issued [2/27], alerts that it recently sent to banks and credit unions warning them about a compromise at a payment processor were related to the ongoing investigation of a previously known breach. However, Visa still didn't disclose the identity of the breached company, nor did it say why it is continuing to keep the name under wraps."

So, it's alert-worthy, it isn't Heartland, it's a processor, and we already knew they had been breached in some fashion. That seems like a pretty short list.

by Anonymous on 2009-03-05 (about 5 years ago)

Actually... it gets even better.

Visa now claims there was NO NEW breach. Check this article here, http://searchfinancialsecurity.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid185_gci1349611,00.html

I bet it was a well known bank with an existing load of bad publicity due to the current economic environment that did not need any more and it just took time to "get everyone on the same page" regarding a cover up.

Not only was the CAMS alert code named differently than the Heartland breach (rather than just a subsequent file with the same number and different trailing letter designation), there were DUPLICATE card numbers. Visa will remove duplicate card numbers when you are notified again on a new batch of numbers from the same breach. I repeat... that did not happen here and there were duplicates between the 2... which means the same cards were breached again in a NEW EVENT.

Are you listening VISA? You need to come clean.


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