Yet another credit card security breach …

If you’ve been following the news over the past couple days, you’ll have heard about yet another massive security breach.  This one has netted the hackers something like 160 million credit card numbers and have cost the businesses hacked roughly $300M.  It’s touched some large companies like JC Penny, JetBlue and Carrefour.  Check out this story by NBC News and if you want some more technical information, this story by Information Week.

It’s enough to make one bury one’s head in the sand.  I don’t know many folks who ARE NOT using the Internet for a wide variety of on-line financial transactions and the steady stream of compromised systems just makes one numb to the dangers.

Going forward, I don’t see folks reverting to non-online purchasing or not using it for banking.  So, some thoughts about keeping one’s head in this environment:

  • Limit the places where you leave your credit card number.  The conventional wisdom is to never let a company store your number, but there are some cases were the service is not practical without it, like iTunes or Amazon’s Kindle services.  Most other on-line sites, its worth the extra time to enter your card on each transaction.
  • Consider using PayPal for the sites that both support it and where you’d prefer not to enter the CC information each time.  This will help limit where you have actual CC information on-line.
  • For credit cards to be used on-line, it’s a good practice to have one dedicated for this purpose, with a relatively low maximum.
  • Also, be sure to be able to monitor transactions on that credit card on-line.  I use Quicken to download CC transactions daily to allow me to eyeball them.  I also wrote about a service called BillGuard a while back that you might consider.
  • Finally, remember that there is a $50 limit to you if your credit card was fraudulently used as long as you detect it promptly.  This protection enables on-line use of credit cards as without it, the risk would be too great.  Sadly, though for a given breach, the companies and banks impacted pay the bill, in the end, the cost is passed down to all of us in higher costs and fees.

For a good site of on-going security issues with the Net, see CNET’s Security Page.

Be careful out there …

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