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Hacked Target Customers Reveals U.S. Weakness

Updated on January 16, 2014

Hackers know where to go when they want to steal personal, consumer data-things like, credit card numbers, passwords, names, addresses. They just target large consumer stores in the USA. Target was the most recent, then Nordstroms was hacked.

For the 100 million Target customers that paid with credit cards, the hackers have a ton of data to go through and sell to nefarious individuals who may access your credit account and buy things with it.

Using a credit card in the USA is old school when compared with those in Europe. The USA, the old technology of a magnetic strip with personal data still reigns and is about as secure as the old cassette tape from the 70's. Thieves can easily copy this when swiped. In Europe, they use cards containing chips that hold the information. Every time the card is used, the chip generates a different code, unique for that transaction. It is very hard for hackers to replicate the code.

Global credit card fraud came to over $11 billion last year. So, the magnetic strip on a card used in the USA contains: owners name, expiration date, account number, and the card's security code. When the card is swiped, an electronic communication instantly happens between the store"s bank and the customer bank making sure the customer's bank will pay the store's bank for the item. It takes only 1.4 seconds. The information moves through the computers and recorded. Hackers can steal the info as it passes through the network or from the database. Hackers will check the account balance and credit limits.

Once stolen, new cards can be made by hackers simply by transferring the data onto a new magnetic strip. Now, thieves can get the same data from cards with chips but they cannot create new ones because chip cards have no magnetic strips. If the card has unlimited balance, it will sell on the black market for $1000, if the card has a low limit, maybe $5.

The days are numbered for magnetic strip credit cards in the USA, by Sept. 2015, major credit card companies will have sent their customers new chip cards like those in Europe, which may also require a PIN number to be used for a transaction.

Usually, hackers will test an account data by charging small amounts, say, $1-10.00, to see if it works. If it does, the next time, the amount will increase to $25-50. If it is not noticed, a very large charge will follow.

Always look at small charges. Many gas stations will actually charge $1 to use the pump with a credit card. It may not show up until a day after, iTunes may also charge small amounts that could make you suspicious.

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