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40 Million Credit Cards Hacked – YOU as Identity Theft Victim

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Saturday, MasterCard blamed a vendor of ALL credit card providers called CardSystems Solutions, Inc., a third-party processor of payment card data, as the source of loss of 40 million consumers credit card information.

As is pointed out by several newspaper and web articles over the last few weeks, each recapping long lists of financial information data breaches, something’s gotta give before we entirely lose trust in financial institutions, data brokers and credit bureaus. How much privacy loss can we take without acting?

These types of data loss were very likely common and have very probably been going on for a very long time. The difference is that now, THEY ARE REQUIRED BY LAW TO DISCLOSE THOSE LOSSES – not just in California, but in many states. National disclosure laws on data security breaches are being considered in Congress.

I suggest that these breaches of data security all came to light due to the California law requiring disclosure from companies suffering hacking loss or leaks or social engineering or crooked employees or organized crime rings posing as “legitimate” customers. All of the above have been given as reasons for security lapses or poor security policies.

About three years ago, a friend told me his paycheck deposit to Bank of America went missing from account records after he took his check to the bank on Friday. By Monday, Bank of America was in the news claiming a computer glitch had disappeared the entire day’s deposits. I mumbled to myself, “I’ll bet that was a hack and that hacker just made a huge offshore banking deposit with B of A depositors’ money.”

But we didn’t find out why it happened in that particular case because there was no disclosure law in place at the time. Now we have disclosure laws that mandate notice of security breaches. Now suddenly – huge financial services hacks and devious criminal social engineering outfits posing as legitimate customers and apparently “innocent” losses by transport companies of backup tapes begin to come to light.

This spate of data loss incidents is proof of the need for corporate “sunshine laws” that make public notice mandatory of those data losses that threaten customer information.

Who is going to lose here – the public, the corporations, the criminals, or the government? I’d prefer that the bad guys get the shaft and take down crooked company insiders that either facilitate data loss by underfunding security and encryption or participate in data theft or loss in any form – even if that participation is security negligence.

Financial companies and data brokers have been covering up the losses and keeping quiet about hacks so as not to worry or frighten their customers. But that practice is essentially ended now that they must notify the public and disclose those losses instead of hushing them up.

Keeping the breaches hidden from public view is bad practice as it maintains the status quo. Disclosure will facilitate internal corporate lockdowns on the data and all access to it. Disclosure will educate the public to the lack of security and danger to the sensitive information we all provide rather casually and routinely to businesses.

As the following link to a silicon.com story suggests, we cannot take much more of this lack of regard to privacy and must lock down financially sensitive data securely and must begin to hold data brokers, bureaus and handlers VERY accountable.

<http://software.silicon.com/security/0,39024655,39131279,00.htm>

Insist to your elected representatives that your financial data be locked down, encrypted and guarded by those entrusted with storing, transporting and using it. Since our financial, medical and legal lives are increasingly being housed in digital form and transmitted between data centers of multiple handlers – we need to know it is secure. We also need to know when that security has been breached and our data compromised or lost.

Thieves are becoming more aware of the ease with which they can find and access financial data. Hacking is not the source of the greatest losses.

Organized crime has easily found their way into our financial records by simply paying for it by posing as “legitimate” business customers of information brokers such as ChoicePoint and Lexis/Nexis. Any business can buy financial and credit information from those information bureaus and credit reporting agencies by meeting rather lax requirements for “need to know” that data.

As long as it is possible to purchase our sensitive data from brokers and bureaus, organized crime will “legitimately” buy it from those sources, then ruin our credit by selling that information at a higher price in identity theft schemes.

Since disclosure laws have come into effect, those breaches have been made public, credit cards cancelled before losses can occur and credit reports monitored to watch for suspicious activity. The bad guys activities are squelched because we are made aware of the possibility our information has been compromised.

Not all blame can go to financial institutions and data brokers. Protect your own private data by protecting your computer records at home, in the office, on your laptop and in your PDA by using basic keyword security and locking down files. Use built in encryption on your operating system and your home network to keep data secure. Then be certain to clear that sensitive data off the computer when you sell it or throw it away.

Data security is something we all need to take seriously and the corporate breaches are dramatic illustrations of how important it has become to build digital fortresses around our critical financial, legal and medical information.

Mike Banks Valentine operates SEOptimism, Offering SEO training of
in-house content managers http://seoptimism.com/SEO_Staff_Training.htm
as well as the Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial at
http://WebSite101.com and blogs about SEO at http://RealitySEO.com
where this article appears with live links to SMO stories, buttons, blog posts and examples.

40 Million Credit Cards Hacked – YOU as Identity Theft Victim
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