You’ve heard about all those security card mess-ups that put credit card information in the hands of some scam artist, right?
It almost seems as if it’s been quiet for a while—until now. Word is that New Jersey’s Heartland Payment Systems—a processor of credit and debit card payments—was the victim of a massive security breach attributed to cyber-criminals. Apparently, thieves used “malicious” software to break into Heartland’s payment system.
The company processes more than one hundred million transactions per month, but Heartland spokesperson Jason Maloni told me that any estimation of the dollars at-stake is “nothing more than speculation.” And no merchant data or cardholder Social Security numbers, unencrypted personal identification numbers (PIN), addresses, or telephone numbers were involved in the breach, Maloni emphasizes.
Still, this is scary stuff. We saw this with the TJX Companies—the company that owns big retail stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls—which lost ninety million customer records in 2007.
The lesson: A tech-savvy thief can get our information pretty easily. So how do we protect ourselves? Heartland moved quickly once it discovered the breach, but apparently it had been going on for a few weeks.
What I don’t understand is how Heartland’s website can claim the company has “The Highest Standards. The Most Trusted Transactions.”
Heartland says it’s implementing a new system to flag anomalies in real-time, but I wonder why this wasn’t already part of the company’s security.
“Flagging anomalies isn’t something you see at many firms,” Maloni says. “That’s something you tend to only see at the governmental levels. We will learn from this.”
Still, I’m worried. And what should you do after reading about this?
- First, review your credit-card statements online—now and always—to see if there are any unusual charges or activity.
- Stick to one credit card. It’ll simplify your credit-card life and reduce your exposure to fraud. With one card, fewer chances to get your information in the hands of the wrong person.
- Be ready. You might be notified by Heartland if your data was compromised.
Still, more needs to be done. If companies are going to make billions off our credit card usage, then they need to have protections in place to prevent it from happening in the first place. Don’t you agree?
By Jennifer Openshaw, co-founder and president of WeSeed