Retail industry focusing on data security
The malicious malware that hackers used to attack Target has been tied to a number of recent breaches in retail stores, including Neiman Marcus and Michaels Company, Inc.. On January 17, the FBI issued a report to leaders in the retail industry, warning that the risk for continued attacks is high.
"We believe POS malware crime will continue to grow over the near term, despite law enforcement and security firms' actions to mitigate it," read the FBI statement, according to Reuters. "The accessibility of the malware on underground forums, the affordability of the software and the huge potential profits to be made from retail POS systems in the United States make this type of financially motivated cybercrime attractive to a wide range of actors."
The malware strain used in these attacks allowed criminals to gain network access undetected. According to Reuters, the FBI believes that one variant of the software can be updated remotely, making it more difficult for retailers and the government to guard against it.
Consumer response and expectations
With all of the news about data breaches in the retail industry, consumers are highly aware of the problem. However, the issue has not significantly deterred them from shopping at stores. In fact, The Associated Press (AP) reported, customers remain more concerned about security in ecommerce software and mobile transactions.
The AP polled people to assess their reaction to the recent data breaches. It found that the majority of Americans are extremely concerned about personal data since the breach, but haven't changed their shopping habits or taken significant steps to protect themselves. For example, only 37 percent have tried to use cash instead of cards, the poll found, and 41 percent have checked their credit score.
While the source attributed these results to Americans accepting data breaches as a part of life, it also points to the fact that there's relatively little that consumers can do to avoid using credit cards and having their data collected. Therefore, the expectation is that retailers, banks and security experts should have the greatest responsibility in protecting data.
Tips for keeping POS systems secure
Even if customers are not dissuaded from shopping because of security concerns, merchants should take this opportunity to make sure their systems are as secure as possible. Having up-to-date POS software is a good place to start. In addition, Security Dark Reading recommended merchants take the following steps for defending POS systems:
- Use strong passwords
- Update POS software applications
- Install a firewall
- Use antivirus
- Restrict access to the internet
- Disallow remote access
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