According to Target, hackers may have gained access to 40 million debit/credit card numbers and other personal information including customer names, card expiration dates, and the cards' three-digit security codes… Just about all the information that a grimy character or group would need to go on a charging spree.
It gets worse - Target has warned anybody who made purchases between November 27th and December 15th to keep a close eye on their credit card statements for irregular activity. In other words, hackers gained access to the debit/credit card information starting on Thanksgiving.
Just in case you're not doing the math, hackers got a peek at Target customers' credit card information during Black Friday shopping… one of, if not the, busiest shopping period of the year for many retail companies. Target was in fact one of the retail store chains that decided to open up Thanksgiving night, now called "Gray Thursday." In hindsight, that probably wasn't a good idea.
According to Target, once they learned of the breach, they contacted the proper authorities, and are currently investigating the matter. Target has assured shoppers that the issue has been identified and resolved, and they can continue to make transactions. (Any customers who think their cards were affected should report it to their respective credit card company, and can also call Target at 866-852-8680.)
Now, the twist is that hackers did not access credit card information from online purchases, they somehow installed rogue software on the Target POS (Point Of Sale) credit card readers, where customers manually swiped their cards in over 1,700 Target stores nationwide. I'm sure there are plenty of people who still don't trust online shopping for fear of their personal information being stolen. This latest Target breach is proof-positive that online outlets are not the only targets (see what I did there?) for hackers looking to take advantage of technology.
To pile on even more, unlike online shopping where there are some methods/safeguards customers can use to make it just a little harder to access their financial information, there isn't much you can do when the brick and mortar store that you've trusted with your credit card information gets breached.
Now I know this is a lose/lose question, but this is for all the online-shopping skeptics and naysayers: The idea that any type of financial transaction processed digitally, anytime, anywhere, is potentially subject to being accessed by anybody with the time and means - does that make you feel just a little better about shopping online?
…Or does that make you want to take all your money out of banks and stuff it under your mattress?
-By Terrance Gaines