Stephen Foley: Calm down – despite the data breaches, there's little actual fraud on the cards
Saturday 11 June 2011
US Outlook: News of arrests in Spain of people believed to part of the hacker group Anonymous, responsible for attacks on Sony and MasterCard in recent months, comes on the heels of another big data breach here in the US. This time it was Citigroup that said its computers had been compromised, with hackers gaining access to credit card details of 200,000 North American customers. It is having to issue new cards.
Just another day, then, in the great war over our personal data.
The Citigroup breach, the largest direct attack on a US bank, has prompted inevitable calls for financial institutions to tighten security procedures, in the hope of staying one step ahead of the hackers. There has been criticism of banks for failing to invest the necessary money in improved security systems, but to my mind this seems unfair, and misses an important point. For all the security breaches, few have resulted in actual fraud on people's accounts. In the Citigroup case, those three-digit security codes on the back of its customers' cards were stored separately. So were their social security numbers, and the expiry dates of their cards. The likelihood of discovering a fraudulent transaction on a Citigroup card is low.
There have been 288 publicly disclosed breaches of financial services companies' computer systems, according to the Identity Theft Resource Centre, and 83 million customer records compromised. That would suggest that, even if you haven't been a victim, you would be likely to know at least one person who has – yet complaints about discovering dodgy transactions are not a staple of pub conversation.
None of this is to minimise the importance of these breaches, just to say that clearing up after them, by telling customers to reset passwords or issuing new cards, might be the best way to deal with them. Laborious new signing-in procedures are an unnecessary hindrance; in the UK, Barclays' requirement that you use a calculator-like device to generate a log-in code every time you go to its website has removed the whole point of internet banking, namely that you can access your account anywhere.
There are tighter rules needed. Citigroup, like Sony and others before it, ought to have revealed the existence of the security breach sooner than it did, so a code of conduct for communication with customers would be a good start.
But breaches are a fact of life in the modern era. The investment should come in technology to detect break-ins and to track down their anonymous perpetrators. As long as we get as many headlines about hacker arrests as we do about hacker attacks, we should be satisfied.
- 1 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
- 4 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 5 A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Costa Concordia: Shipment of Mob drugs was hidden aboard cruise liner when it hit rocks off Italian coast, investigators say
Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Justin Bieber roast: Ludacris claims Paul Walker jokes were 'over the line'
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
iJobs Money & Business
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...
£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...
Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...