As the mystery around the credit card hacking at retail giants Target and Nieman Marcus continues to unfold, you're going to start hearing a lot about something called a "RAM scraper."
Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel confirmed in an interview with CNBC (which is a partner of Re/code) that the source of the attack that has affected as many as 70 million of its customers was malware that was present on its point-of-sale systems. This disclosure came a day after a Reuters report that cited sources familiar with the investigation as identifying the type of malware involved as a RAM scraper.
So what the heck is a RAM scraper and how does it work? First it's helpful to remember that payment systems — the cash registers and credit card terminals you see in stores and restaurants every day — have a lot of strong requirements for encrypting data, pretty much end-to-end during the transaction process, as well as any records that are stored afterward.
—By Arik Hesseldahl, recode.net.
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