America the Superpower is also the super choice for criminals wanting to steal credit card information. Security experts warn that this problem will get worse before it improves.
That ancient technology of the magnetic strip on the back of credit and debit cards is a godsend to criminals. The easy-to-copy band stores account information using a technology the same as that of cassette tapes. U.S. credit card technology has not kept up with fraudsters. One challenge facing the industry is that it is very expensive for companies to upgrade their credit card security.
When a card is swiped, the strip allows communication between the retailer’s bank and the customer’s bank: 1.4 seconds. That’s enough time for the network to record the cardholder’s information on computers controlled by the payment processing companies.
Hackers can snatch account data (including security codes) as it crosses the network or steal it from databases. Though the security code is required for most online purchases, thieves don’t care as long as the magnetic strips are easily reproducible and placed on fake cards—which they then use for purchases or sell the card data online. Three bucks will get you a fraudulent card with limited customer information and a low balance.
You’ll have to wait at least until the fall of 2015 for U.S. credit card companies to ditch the magnetic strips for digital chips. Retailers want more: each transaction to require a PIN rather than signature.
What can retailers do in the meantime?
- Internet-based payment systems should be protected from hackers with strong firewalls.
- Data should be encrypted, so that hackers see gibberish.
This may be easier said than done, because implementing these safeguards isn’t cheap. The U.S. lags behind most other nations when it comes to credit and debit cards; most countries’ cards use the digital chips that contain account information.
Every time the card is used, the chip generates a code that’s unique. This makes it a lot harder for criminals to duplicate the cards—so difficult, in fact, that usually they don’t even bother trying to replicate them. It would really be great if the U.S. could catch on to this technology.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to AllClear ID. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.
ROBERT SICILIANO, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds. His "tell it like it is" style is sought after by major media outlets, executives in the C-Suite of leading corporations, meeting planners, and community leaders to get the straight talk they need to stay safe in a world in which physical and virtual crime is commonplace. Siciliano is accessible, real, professional, and ready to weigh in and comment at a moment's notice on breaking news.
- What Differentiates EMV Cards?
In the United States, our credit and debit cards still rely on outdated magnetic stripe technology. The magnetic stripe is the black or brown band on the back of your credit or debit card. The stripe stores data, such as your account number, via tiny, iron-based magnetic particles. When you swipe your card through a
- How EMV Impacts International Travel
In the United States, credit and debit cards rely on magnetic stripe technology. The magnetic stripe is the black, brown, gold, or silver band on the back of your credit or debit card. Tiny, iron-based magnetic particles in this band store your account number. When the card is swiped through a “reader,” the data stored
- Security Snapshot: How Is EMV Safer?
To understand why EMV credit cards—or “chip and PIN” cards—are safer, first we must understand standard magnetic stripe cards. The familiar magnetic stripe, which can be seen on all credit cards carried in the United States, has been around for more than four decades. The security technology behind the magnetic stripe has been compromised, since the
- My EMV for a Week Challenge is DONE!
This week I worked with Gemalto, as part of Gemalto’s #ChipAwayAtFraud campaign. I was tasked with using my “chip” card when making a bunch of every day purchases like getting coffee and shopping. Gemalto, one of the world’s leaders in digital security, wanted a real-world take on the EMV card experience, which includes the security
- What is Contactless Technology?
“Contactless” refers to technology embedded in a personal device — typically a mobile phone, key fob, credit card, or access card — that transmits your data to another device from a distance of a few inches in order to complete a transaction. Transactions involving data transfer have traditionally involved plastic cards with a magnetic stripe or