Julie’s Place hack: an all-too-familiar story by now

This breach was first reported earlier this month, but I seem to have missed it:

About 100 people found out over the last couple weeks that someone else had accessed their bank account, taking their money and leaving them stunned.


After being flooded with reports of fraud, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office began to investigate and found that the computer system at the restaurant Julie’s Place had been hacked and someone, somewhere had full access.

Read more on WCTV.

In follow-up coverage today in the Tallahassee Democrat, the owner reportedly claims that he was told that the breach involved an Aloha POS-specific malware:

The company that provided the Aloha card terminal also found evidence of where the intruder got past the system’s firewall and was able to remotely access the terminal and steal the customers’ information.

“They found malware that was specifically for this Aloha system,” he said of the technicians’ evaluation. Since then, he has had the entire system changed out and security features upgraded to prevent a recurrence.

Radiant Systems’ Response

DataBreaches.net contacted Radiant Systems, manufacturers of the Aloha POS systems, about the statement that the malware was “Aloha-specific” in any way. Ernie Floyd, Director of Data Security and Compliance for Radiant stated that there was no unusual or Aloha-specific malware, and that as in other cases, when cybercriminals find systems with remote access software in listening mode, they then probe for the presence of payment applications that would indicate that card data might be available. If they find it, they then upload the malware to scrape the card data. In the case of Julie’s Place, Floyd said that the system had PCAnywhere in listening mode and no commercial-grade firewall.

Floyd says that although it was not available at the time of this particular breach, the company has a developed two-factor authentication tool for support services. According to him, the firm and its resellers have really been trying to educate restauranteurs that having PA-DSS validated software is simply not sufficient if there is no commercial grade software or if the rest of the environment is in shambles.

Breaches in the Hospitality Sector Are Up

Floyd also confirmed my impression that breaches in the hospitality sector are up this year. At a Visa symposium in June, attendees were reportedly informed that although Q1 was a slow quarter in terms of breach reports, Q2 was more active than any quarter in 2009. A Trustwave SpiderLabs representative also reported that by August, they had already conducted more post-breach forensic evaluations than they had for the entire year in 2009. Trustwave SpiderLabs typically handles about half of all forensic evaluations in the hospitality sector.

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