Scam of the day – February 9, 2014 – How the Target Hackers did it and what it means to you

It is being reported that forensic computer investigators have discovered how the Target hackers managed to infiltrate the Target point-of-sale computer devices and systems, enabling them to steal credit and debit card information of more than a hundred million people.  Apparently the hackers first managed to hack into a less secure HVAC company (heating and air conditioning) Fazio Mechanical Services, Inc. that worked for Target and steal that company’s access to the Target computer systems.  You might ask why a HVAC company would need computer access to Target.  The reason is that through Target’s computers, the HVAC company could monitor and control the heating and air conditioning systems in individual Target stores.  However, Fazio presently denies that it does such remote monitoring.  A company spokesman did say, however, that it did submit bills and contract proposals electronically to Target and it is possible that it was those such documents which were corrupted by the hackers to gain access to Target’s computer system  Unfortunately, the security used by smaller companies, such as the HVAC company here leave much to be desired and it is there lax security that appears to have been exploited by the hackers who were able to exploit that vulerability to get access to the internal network of Target’s computers.

TIPS

Greater attention needs to be given by companies such as Target to providing greater security to important parts of their computer networks, such as its point-of-sale devices, recognizing the real possibility of a backdoor hacking of their computers by criminals, such as those who hacked into Target.  With third party companies, such as HVAC companies routinely having access to the computer networks of large chain stores, such as Target, their financial transactions must be secured better.  We can expect to see1 many more of these point of sale hackings in the days and weeks ahead, which means that many of you will end up having your card information stolen.

So what should you do?

You may wish to switch to cash, but for many of us that is not a viable choice.  Do not use your debit card for any retail purchases.  Limit its use to ATMs.  The consumer protection laws for fraudulent use of a debit card are much less protective than the laws pertaining to fraudulent use of a credit card.  Monitor the use of your credit car regularly and be on the look out for any fraudulent use.  Finally, some credit card issuers are issuing the new chip cards, which are safer than the old magnetic strip cards, if you specifically request one.  You may wish to do so.