Homeland Security warns retailers about hacking software, estimates 1,000 businesses affected

The Homeland Security Department is warning that more than 1,000 retailers could have a new malicious software program lurking in their cash registers that allows computer hackers to steal financial data about their customers.

The department on Friday warned businesses of all sizes they should scan their cash register systems for the "Backoff" malicious software first discovered last October.

The government earlier this summer issued a more detailed warning explaining what the malicious program is doing and how retailers' information technology departments could deal with it.

The government says the Backoff program itself is not unique, but its wide deployment by hackers and its repeated updates over the last six months make it a serious threat for consumers and businesses.