ID Theft on Rise due to Economic Slump, Report Suggests

Dennis Faas's picture

How much thought do you give to security when you use your credit card at a retail location?

According to the Chicago Tribune, most consumers don't think about what happens to their credit card information when their plastic gets swiped at the cash register.

Unfortunately, large retailers have networks that are potentially vulnerable to breaches connected to cash registers, bar code scanners and store computers. (Source:

In some high-profile cases of network vulnerability, thieves don't just pluck one credit card number. They pluck millions of them. For instance, in 2007, TJX Cos, a discount retailer, was the victim of a computer breach that exposed 45.7 million credit and debit cards. The group accused of stealing the TJX data was believed to have hacked into several stores' weakly encrypted wireless networks.

Last year, Hannaford Bros, a supermarket company, reported data breaches in the Northeast and Florida that were compromised.

This past January, Heartland Payment Systems found malicious software in its system that put customer information at risk.

Crime On The Rise Due To Economic Downturn

Stan Schatt, a vice president at ABI Research, says that some retailers are reducing plans for new stores and are putting money into security instead. Retailers are bracing for an increase in crime -- be it increased shoplifting or employee theft -- due to the economic crisis.

Because some retailers are currently working on very thin margins, even a small increase in theft could be devastating.

But where are the new threats coming from?  According to some researchers, over the airwaves. Richard Rushing, senior director of information security for mobile devices at Motorola, Inc., says retailers have always taken security very seriously, but they're not looking at the vulnerabilities of wireless networks close enough. Many stores use WEP encryption that can be broken in 90 seconds.

Research conducted by Schatt showed that 77 percent of retailers with 500 or more employees use wireless networks.

Shared Responsibility For Security

Security with others, such as credit card processors, is a shared responsibility for the retail industry.

Financial liability in data breaches makes security a hot issue according to Dave Taylor, founder of the PCI Knowledge Base, which helps members of the payment card industry meet security standards. (Source:

TJX Cos had to set aside $24 million in a settlement with MasterCard Inc. after they became the victim of a data breach.

Protecting wireless networks involves more than properly setting them up and encrypting them. Retailers need to be careful about who accesses the data while keeping track of portable devices that are shared among workers.

Visit Bill's Links and More for more great tips, just like this one!

Rate this article: 
No votes yet