Latest Cybercrime Signals Need for Change

You’d be forgiven for muttering an exasperated “enough” after hearing about the latest large-scale data security breach to hit the financial services industry.

It has, after all, become a sad routine, differentiated only by the number of victims and the size of the financial damages. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported a nearly 50 percent increase in data theft in 2008 over the previous year. As a result, 35.7 million Americans had their personal records exposed. And these numbers likely are underestimating because many cases are never reported.

Because the alarm bells have been strangely silent, allow me to take this opportunity to ring them — loudly. It’s time for corporate America to get serious about protection.

As the size and scope of successful attacks continue to increase, we apparently will need all the protection we can get. In fact, the latest breach could end up being the biggest one yet. The New York Times reported hackers planted malware inside Heartland Payment Systems possibly as early as May of last year, and it took until December before the company became aware of it.

Heartland typically processes 100 million transactions per month on behalf of 250,000 U.S. businesses. It doesn’t take a math genius to conclude that the potential loss of data easily can exceed the previous champ, TJX, which lost 45 million credit and debit card numbers about two years ago.

Although the Heartland incident — in which hackers apparently used rogue code to steal card numbers, expiration…



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