Hackers Behind the British Airways Data Breach Revealed

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Security experts at RiskIQ reported that the hackers behind the recent British Airways data breach is the MageCart crime gang.

MageCart has been active since at least 2015 and managed to compromise lots of e-commerce websites to steal payment card and other sensitive data.

The cyber gang operates by injecting a skimmer script in the target websites to siphon payment card data, and as soon as the website is compromised, it adds an embedded piece of Javascript to the HTML template.

The malicious script is called MagentoCore and it records keystrokes from customers and sends them to a server controlled by the hackers.

Usually, the attackers try to compromise third-party features which could let them access a large number of websites.

The experts at RiskIQ claim that the MageCart group carried out a targeted attack against the British Airways using a customized version of the script to remain undercover.

For this specific attack, the criminals used a dedicated infrastructure against the airline.

“This attack is a simple but highly targeted approach compared to what we’ve seen in the past with the Magecart skimmer which grabbed forms indiscriminately. This particular skimmer is very much attuned to how British Airway’s payment page is set up, which tells us that the attackers carefully considered how to target this site instead of blindly injecting the regular Magecart skimmer.” the RiskIQ analysis states.

“The infrastructure used in this attack was set up only with British Airways in mind and purposely targeted scripts that would blend in with normal payment processing to avoid detection. We saw proof of this on the domain name baways.com as well as the drop server path.”

After analyzing all the scripts loaded by the website, the security researchers found some changes in the Modernizr JavaScript library, where the hackers added some lines of code at the bottom to avoid causing problems to the script. The JavaScript library was modified on August 21, 20:49 GMT.

The malicious script was loaded from the baggage claim information page on the British Airways website. The code which was added by the criminals let Modernizr send payment information from the customer straight to the hackers’ server.

The script allowed the attacker to steal users’ data from both the website and the mobile application.

The data stolen from the British Airways was sent in the form of JSON to a server hosted on baways.com resembling the legitimate domain used by the airline.

The hackers purchased an SSL certificate from Comodo to avoid raising suspicion.

“The domain was hosted on 89.47.162.248 which is located in Romania and is, in fact, part of a VPS provider named Time4VPS based in Lithuania. The actors also loaded the server with an SSL certificate. Interestingly, they decided to go with a paid certificate from Comodo instead of a free LetsEncrypt certificate, likely to make it appear like a legitimate server.” the RiskIQ team says.

Currently, it is still not clear how the MageCart gang has managed to inject the malicious code in the British Airways website.

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Nelly Vladimirova
Nelly Vladimirova has been working as a journalist since 1998 with a main focus on Finance, Economics, and IT. In 2004 she graduated the University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, as a Bachelor in English Philology and Master in Linguistics and Translation. Later, Nelly received a postgraduate certificate in Business Management from Scott's College, UK. Presently, she is presenting the latest news related to computer security at www.virusguides.com.

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