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Cyberattacks on the rise as credit, debit card numbers become commodities

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Posted June 25, 2013

It’s a sad fact of modern American consumer life. Every time we swipe a piece of plastic at a gas station, grocery store or anywhere else, we’re vulnerable to virtual pickpockets. Increasingly, credit and debit card numbers have become commodities sold by cyberthieves who harvest them from banks, businesses, restaurants and retailers.

“The sophistication of these attacks is unprecedented,” said G. Mark Hardy, president of National Security Corp., a Tampa, Fla.-based cybersecurity consulting firm.

Last year, targeted attacks on businesses jumped 42 percent, according to security software firm Symantec. Attacks spiked 31 percent among companies with fewer than 250 employees.

In recent years, restaurants, grocery stores and even the city of Sacramento, Calif., have had their computer systems hacked or compromised.

It’s part of a shift from mass attacks by computer viruses, worms and other cyberthreats to more pinpointed, targeted infiltrations, say online security experts. The attackers, often located overseas, “find this method more effective because it allows them to fly under the radar and avoid drawing widespread attention to their malware,” Brian Burch, vice president of consumer and small business marketing at Symantec, said in an email.

Small businesses are frequently targeted because they often lack adequate security practices, said Burch. Additionally, because small firms often partner with bigger organizations, cybercriminals “sometimes use them to gain access to a larger company.”

That reality hit the Raley’s grocery chain earlier this month when it said it had been the victim of a cyberattack targeting customers’ credit and debit card numbers. Raley’s spokesman John Segale said forensic computer experts arrived “within hours” of the company being alerted to a possible security breach on May 30, and continue to investigate. The West Sacramento-based grocery chain also said it reported the incident to the FBI.

Read more at: Phys.org

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