Four Romanian nationals indicted for hacking Subway and 50 other merchants’ POS systems

The U.S. Dept. of Justice has issued a press release about an indictment that may relate to some breaches involving Subway Restaurant previously reported on this blog. The case was filed May 4, but the indictment has just been unsealed.

Four Romanian nationals have been charged in federal court for their alleged participation in an international multimillion dollar scheme to remotely hack into and steal payment card data from hundreds of U.S. merchants’ point of sale (POS) computer systems.

Adrian-Tiberiu Oprea, 27, of Constanta, Romania; Iulian Dolan, 27, of Craiova, Romania; Cezar Iulian Butu, 26, of Ploiesti, Romania; and Florin Radu, 23, of Rimnicu Vilcea, Romania, were charged in a four-count indictment filed in the District of New Hampshire with conspiracy to commit computer fraud, wire fraud and access device fraud. Oprea was arrested last week in Romania and is currently in custody there. Dolan and Butu were arrested upon their entry into the United States on Aug. 13 and Aug. 14, 2011, respectively, and remain in United States custody. Radu remains at large.

According to the indictment, from approximately 2008 until May 2011, Oprea, Dolan, Butu and Radu conspired to remotely hack into more than 200 U.S.-based merchants’ POS systems in order to steal customers’ credit, debit and gift card numbers and associated data. The indictment alleges that as part of the conspiracy, the members remotely scanned the internet to identify vulnerable POS systems with certain remote desktop software applications (RDAs) installed on them, and using these RDAs, the conspirators logged onto the targeted POS systems over the internet, either by guessing the passwords or using password-cracking software programs. The failure of a number of installers and users to change the default login credentials on such RDAs has been a factor in other cases reported on this blog in the past and Visa has repeatedly advised merchants to disable RDAs unless absolutely necessary. In this case, the members also allegedly installed keyloggers and a backdoor to allow them further access to the systems over time. Prosecutors allege that the conspirators repeatedly “downloaded a hacker tool that is designed to evade detection, “xp.exe,” from the “kitsite.info” “dump site” onto victims’ POS terminals.” Data were stored on domestic and non-U.S. servers including ftp.shopings.info, ftp.justfuckit.info, ftp.cindarella.info, ftp.kitsite.info, ftp.tushtime.info, ftp.canadasite.info, and sendspace.com. The  dump sites  also included compromised internet-connected computers belonging to unsuspecting small business owners or individuals, including a computer server owned by a small business in Pennsylvania. Many of the dump sites were registered with GoDaddy.com.

Merchant victims include more than 150 Subway restaurant franchises (which is less than 1 percent of all Subway restaurants), located throughout the United States, including in the District of New Hampshire, as well as more than 50 other identified retailers. According to the indictment, members of the conspiracy have compromised the credit card data of more than 80,000 customers, and millions of dollars of unauthorized purchases have been made using the compromised data. The other merchants were not named in the indictment.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of five years in prison for each count of conspiracy to commit computer related fraud, 30 years in prison for each count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five years in prison for each count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud. They also face fines up to twice the amount of the fraud loss and restitution.

Although it didn’t garner much media coverage, this blog had reported incidents involving  card fraud at Subway locations in California and New York in 2009 and May 2010. Without knowing the identities of the other merchants, it’s unclear whether we knew about any of their breaches at the time or whether they ever notified affected customers.

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