Is card security a myth?
Sept. 29, 2014
by Ivan Raconteur

I’m starting to think it would be quicker to report which companies haven’t been hit with some sort of security breach than to try to list those that have.

Jimmy John’s might have freaky fast delivery, but the company is apparently not quick enough to outmaneuver hackers.

The sandwich chain confirmed Wednesday that hackers stole customers’ debit and credit card data from 216 of its stores.

Jimmy John’s has joined a growing list of retailers and restaurant chains that have been targets of hackers.

Target, Home Depot, Niemen Marcus, and P.F. Chang’s are also on that list.

It has also been reported that critical infrastructure sites, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, have been attacked.

Colleges and universities have also been targets, and data including Social Security and credit card numbers, health records, and intellectual property produced by research departments may have been compromised.

This is where it gets tricky.

We are a society driven by information.

We are required to share sensitive information with companies and organizations, and we must trust that they will protect this data.

Recent events suggest that their ability to do so is by no means a certainty.

If a security breach occurs, even though there are some protections in place, much of the burden still falls on consumers.

For example, if there is reason to believe debit or credit card information may have been compromised, the card company may cancel the card and issue a new one.

Until the new card arrives, however, the consumer may be left without a card to conduct other business.

At the very least, this can be inconvenient.

I suppose one option would be for all of us to start carrying around bags of cash, and not use cards, but something tells me that wouldn’t be very practical.

I suspect it could be difficult to book a hotel room or an airline flight using cash.

Imagine the scene if a guy showed up at the local jewelry store to buy an expensive gift for his girl, and he hauled out a wad of cash to pay for it. Eyebrows might be raised, and questions might be asked.

The problem is, we have been railroaded into going from a cash basis to a card basis, and now, the companies handling the card transactions seem unable to keep the information secure.

Even medical records are going digital these days. There are many advantages to this, but it seems that whenever data is stored, there are opportunities for unscrupulous characters to try to access that data.

I suppose another possibility to avoid having our personal data hacked would be to go back to the good old-fashioned barter system.

When we go to the local service station to get an oil change, instead of producing our debit card, we could hand over a sack of taters from our garden and a bottle of homemade wine as payment.

On our next visit to the dentist, maybe we could offer her a couple jars of home-canned tomatoes and a chicken in exchange for a cleaning.

This might be tricky for those who live in the city and don’t grow their own fruits and vegetables, but everyone has something of value to trade.

Maybe in exchange for doing our taxes, we could offer to paint our accountant’s garage or mow his lawn a few times.

We would just need to use our imaginations and find a creative approach.

Data security is a real problem, and one that is growing.

I don’t know what the answer is, but it seems to me it is getting easier for hackers to get at our information than it is for us to access it, and I don’t like the direction things are heading.

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