It’s one thing to try and protect personal information that’s in your possession but what happens when the issue affecting your data lies with someone else’s security? In recent times we have seen a new form of hacking hit the headlines with hackers infecting cash registers in order to be able to steal cardholder details as payments are made.
Two huge American retailers have recently found themselves targeted in this way by hackers, with the result that a huge number of personal details were collected from customers. In October the giant retailer Kmart found that more than 1,200 cash registers had been infected with malware that collected personal information, such as pin codes, email addresses, as well as the card numbers of customers, over a period of a month. Home Depot also suffered a similar issue with some 56 million credit and debit cards used to pay for purchases at Home Depot stores across the country at risk. According to Home Depot the malware that was used was completely unique and had been customised in order to prevent detection – this perfectly illustrates how the way that hacking is evolving is making it increasingly hard to detect and protect. And if hackers get past the systems put in place by these retail giants then what can the rest of us really do to protect ourselves?
There are two simple ways that you can protect yourself against this kind of card fraud where the security element is out of your control. The first is to apply for a prepaid or single use credit card and use this for payments. It’s true that if there’s a fraud against a standard bank card you’re protected but the process of reporting the fraud, contesting any issues, getting a new card, rescheduling all your payments etc can be a real hassle. With a single use or disposable card this is tied to your real card number but disguises it in the event that the database it is in gets hacked. With a prepaid card this is completely separate from your bank account and you simply load it with cash before shopping. The other step you can take is to protect your debit card by only using it at an ATM to withdraw cash – yes there are still risks involved with this, particularly given the number of ATM malware attacks spreading from Eastern Europe but you can keep that risk to a minimum by making sure your debit card details aren’t stored all over the place.
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