Oceanside California Online Payment System Infected by Malware

Brian Erickson | September 18, 2017

Cyber attackers can use a variety of methods for the purpose of breaching organization’s networks and systems. They may employ phishing campaigns to obtain credentials, target the organization with a brute force attack, or exploit a backdoor vulnerability to gain remote access. Of course, there are also many more aside from the above, such as one of the most prominent forms of attacks – malware. There are numerous types and strains of malware, and it can be used for a wide variety of purposes. It can steal information, corrupt or encrypt data, and even be used to take remote control of devices. In a recent attack upon the city of Oceanside, California, malware was used to attack their online payment system.

What the Malware Targeted

According to city officials, the malware had attacked their online payment systems back in August. The attack had targeted the financial information of those using the online system, which included names, billing addresses, credit card numbers, expiration dates, and security codes. This system is used by around 40,000 customers to pay their water, trash, and sewer bills. Once the breach had been discovered on August 14th, the city had quickly shut down the online payment system. They mailed out letters this week to notify the utility customers and explain the incident. The breach is believed to have affected those who used the system to make payments between June 1st and August 15th. One of the worst parts of the situation is that individuals affected by the breach are already reporting illicit purchases made with their information. In fact, more than 110 customers have already reported authorized purchases. The cost of these illicit purchases varied, with it ranging from a few dollars on iTunes to hundreds of retail merchandise. Fortunately, most of the credit card providers have been quickly removing these fraudulent charges. There does not appear to be any details as far as how the malware initially infected the payment system, but perhaps this will be made known once the city investigates further.

The city is implementing several different measures in attempts to mitigate the incident. They said that they will be switching software in October and setting up a new online payment system. The city’s letter to affected customers recommended that those who used their card on the “utility bill payment” link should have it deactivated and replaced. In addition, they also recommend that customers monitor their accounts for suspicious activity and report any unauthorized purchases to the credit card provider, as well as file a fraud report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Until the city sets up a new online payment system, customers can still pay their bills by mailing a check or visiting the city offices.

The Necessity of Evolving Security to Prevent Cyber Attacks

Cyber attacks like the above continue to occur frequently within our modern society. We implement technology in virtually all of our operations these days, including everything from business transactions to healthcare. Fortunately, there are also many modern security tools that can help to prevent these cyber attacks from occurring. Although, it also requires a vigilant approach on the part of organizations. They must frequently review and evaluate their security and systems for any potential vulnerabilities to ensure that these are plugged rapidly. Cyber security is a constantly evolving proposition. For an organization to stagnate in regard to their cyber security is simply putting them at risk. Attackers are always discovering new ways to breach our systems and networks, which is why we must be regularly working to bolster our security. Massive Alliance offers a number of modern tools and services to help organizations properly prevent cyber attacks.

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