What Target Taught Us About Card Security

We’ve already talked extensively about what customers should do if affected by the Target data security breach. A breach of information this size is sure to raise some questions about the state of payment security and credit card fraud. The hack was the largest since 2007 and estimated to be the second largest breach of credit card information in history. The total ramifications have not been realized as Target officials and the United States Secret Service have just recently launched a probe to gather information about the incident after being alerted immediately when the breach was discovered. The Target situation has shed light on an ongoing issue with card fraud and increased expectations for other retailers to take heed of the potential for fraud.

Reports indicate that the point-of-sale payment terminals were compromised. Antiquated POS terminals pose a great risk to the safety of information as they are more susceptible to computer viruses and hackers. Card providers and payment processors have made a strong push in recent years to replace outdated terminals with more secure options, with a goal to have the switch complete by 2015. It is uncertain whether updated terminals could have completely prevented the breach, but a more secure system could have minimized those affected.

As said earlier, this is the largest breach of sensitive data from a retailer since 2007 when retail company TJX reported that as many as 45.7 million customers had their information compromised by a hacker intrusion. According to files with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, TJX’s breach occurred over a period of 18 months which makes the Target hack that much more daunting. Most credit card fraud is done on a small scale and associated with identity theft. Target’s predicament reminds us how large of a scale this kind of fraud can be administered and how many people can be at risk because of outdated terminals and software.

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