Hackers sell $38 million in gift cards on Russian marketplace

Unknown hacker on a computer in a dark room
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Hackers have sold more than $38 million in gift cards from US retailers on an underground Russian hacking marketplace.

According to Gemini Advisory’s investigation, hackers were observed offering to sell 895,000 stolen gift cards from 3,010 companies in early February.

The hackers claimed they had a database of over 3,000 brand-name gift cards. Affected companies included Airbnb, Amazon, American Airlines, Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, Marriott, Nike, Subway, Target, and Walmart. The database may have originated from an older breach at online discount gift card shop Cardpool.com.

Before closing in early 2021, Cardpool.com operated as a gift card marketplace where individuals could sell unwanted gift cards to the shop. Cardpool.com would then resell those cards to others for less than their face value.

The hackers started the auction at $10,000 with a $20,000 buy-now price. According to security researchers, the gift cards were bought by another actor soon after they were posted for sale.


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The original hacker listed data from another 330,000 payment cards on the same forum the next day. This data included payment card number, expiration date, and bank name but not the CVV or cardholder name. Bidding for these details started at $5,000, but there was a $15,000 buy-now price. The payment cards sold within days of the hacker listing them for sale, but not as quickly as the gift cards.

Gemini Advisory’s analysis concluded that the 330,000 payment cards likely came from a Cardpool.com breach between February 4, 2019 and August 4, 2019.

Researchers said the lack of CVV data indicates that the actor likely acquired the cards by gaining backend access to Cardpool.com, which would have enabled them to steal the gift card data and previous shoppers’ payment card data directly from the site’s databases.

“Attackers can acquire backend access to online shops through a variety of methods, including exploiting vulnerabilities in sites’ content management systems (CMS) and brute-forcing admin login credentials,” said researchers.

According to the researchers, the Cardpool.com case “offers a valuable glimpse into the ecosystem of carding.”

“The trick is not in acquiring stolen cards but in devising the most efficient way to cash out the funds on the cards before financial institutions can flag them as compromised,” they said.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.