Data Breaches Remain a Risk for Merchants and Banks

June 6, 2016

It’s the call that no one working in merchant services wants to get: There has been a data breach and the security of thousands of customers’ credit cards is on the line. While credit card processing makes shopping easier, especially online shopping, it isn’t without its risks. And make no mistake about it; a data breach isn’t just inconvenient and scary for the customer. Home-improvement giant, Home Depot, has found itself at the wrong end of a class-action lawsuit: Customers and the legal system take security in cyberspace very seriously.

Exposing Vulnerabilities

In the case of Home Depot, 56 million debit and credit cards were exposed to a cyber-threat as a result of an attack on the big-box store’s POS (point-of-sale) system. The suit alleges that Home Depot didn’t address known vulnerabilities in its credit card processing system, despite numerous warnings.

How things play out with Home Depot could have far-reaching consequences and not just in the home improvement industry. James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert in Washington, says that hacking poses a major threat to the stability of the financial system.

Cybercriminals target banks for obvious reasons. For them, it’s easy money. A lot of money. In recent history, the Bangladeshi Central Bank lost $81 million – yes, million – to a cybercrime attack. And it isn’t just merchant services and credit card processing that these cybercriminals want to know about. It’s a greater security risk than most people realize. CNN calls these attacks “espionage.”

A Different Kind of Fight

Some of the attacks are labeled as fraud, while others introduce malicious code to a system. It is the latter practice that has more than just the merchant services department at banks and restaurant owners worried about data breaches.

These days, cybercrime is the stuff of government warfare, as the book “Hacked World Order” points out. The book postulates that the threat of Iran’s nuclear program was thwarted not so much by negotiations and threats of physical attacks as it was by the lowly computer virus wreaking havoc in the hardware. Malware and viruses, it seems, may just replace the bomber in the Age of the Internet.

Unfortunately, no one solution lasts for very long in this arena. In this case, both restaurateurs and world governments can be shut down by intelligent hackers with computer access and time to kill. The best defense is responding to threats with greater speed and closing the proverbial open door on the data breach before it’s discovered.

 

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