Learning from Retail Payment Hacks

Greg Wheeler
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At the end of 2013, retail giant Target announced that a security breach had exposed the personal information of more than 70 million customers. Since then, many businesses have begun to examine their payment processing systems for weaknesses. If you're a technology professional, it's important for you to learn from payment hacks and find ways to protect your clients.

After the Target payment hacks, other major retailers, including Nieman Marcus and Michaels, reported similar breaches in their payment processing systems. According to a recent story from the Los Angeles Times, experts worry that there is no solution to payment card hacking. In the United States, all cards use a magnetic stripe, a method that has been deemed as outdated in many countries around the world. Magnetic cards are not secure, particularly when compared to encrypted chip technology.

Despite the lack of a complete security solution, technology professionals around the country are making technology security a top priority. If your company has an older payment processing system, upgrading the system as soon as possible is crucial. Many retailers affected by payment processing hacks were infiltrated by a piece of software called BlackPOS; this and other similar programs used by hackers operate by poaching unencrypted data as it is transmitted through a computer's memory. By upgrading to more secure systems, you can help prevent hackers from using similar exploits to break in to your customers' records. Learn from the banking institutions, which use highly aggressive systems to protect customer information.

For many technology professionals, encryption is a low priority. If there's one thing that your company should learn from the hacks at Target and other retailers, it is that data encryption is crucial. If you are working within a budget, the easiest option is point-to-point encryption, which protects a customer's credit card information as soon as it is swiped.

In the wake of the recent payment processing breaches, many consumers are calling for banks to issue cards that use microchip technology. Because of the increased sense of urgency, many expect these new cards to be available within the year. As a technology professional, you can learn from the recent security issues and prepare your business for the new card technology. When you respond quickly and adopt a safer system, you will prove to customers that their security is a top concern.

For technology professionals, the most important lesson to learn from recent retail hacking episodes is that awareness is crucial. When you lose focus on security—even briefly—you run the risk of compromising business and customer data. By ensuring that your payment processing systems are as robust and secure as possible, you can increase customer confidence and reduce your company's vulnerability.



(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)



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