Payment Processor Breach May Be Largest Ever

Check out this Washington Post article: “Payment Processer Breach May Be Largest Ever”. Anything emphasized was done by me.

A data breach last year at Princeton, N.J., payment processor Heartland Payment Systems may have compromised tens of millions of credit and debit card transactions, the company said today.

If accurate, such figures may make the Heartland incident one of the largest data breaches ever reported.

Robert Baldwin, Heartland’s president and chief financial officer, said the company, which processes payments for more than 250,000 businesses, began receiving fraudulent activity reports late last year from MasterCard and Visa on cards that had all been used at merchants which rely on Heartland to process payments.”

[…] said 40 percent of transactions the company processes are from small to mid-sized restaurants across the country.

[…] said it wasn’t until last week that investigators uncovered the source of the breach: A piece of malicious software planted on the company’s payment processing network that recorded payment card data as it was being sent for processing to Heartland by thousands of the company’s retail clients.

Baldwin said Heartland does not know how long the malicious software was in place, how it got there or how many accounts may have been compromised. The stolen data includes names, credit and debit card numbers and expiration dates.

“The transactional data crossing our platform, in terms of magnitude… is about 100 million transactions a month,” Baldwin said. “At this point, though, we don’t know the magnitude of what was grabbed.”

The company stressed that no merchant data or cardholder Social Security numbers, unencrypted personal identification numbers (PIN), addresses or telephone numbers were jeopardized as a result of the breach.

The data stolen includes the digital information encoded onto the magnetic stripe built into the backs of credit and debit cards. Armed with this data, thieves can fashion counterfeit credit cards by imprinting the same stolen information onto fabricated cards.

[…]

The nature of the [breach] is such that card-not-present transactions are actually quite difficult for the bad guys to do because one piece of information we know they did not get was an address,” Baldwin said. As a result, he said, the prospect of thieves using the stolen data to rack up massive amounts of fraud at online merchants “is not impossible, but much less likely.”

This shows that even the Big Guys (and I would characterize a company with over 100 million transactions a month a Big Guy), are not safe from basic attacks like viruses and worms. In fact, if you have a small or midsized business, securing your own infrastructure is much easier then you think. You don’t have to have a million dollar security budget to make that happen. I will talk in more detail about this in one of my upcoming posts.

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