We live in a digital world. With the tremendous growth in online industry, the online shopping and making transactions online is becoming increasingly popular. Use of credit cards is becoming the most popular and accepted mode of payment.
Making online transaction is hassle free, extremely convenient and saves our precious time. We just need a debit or credit card and you can buy anything in a matter of few clicks.
We might think that with the latest advents in technology our credit card information is totally safe. But credit card data do get stolen and often get stolen. Every year, there more and more data breaches and this trend is ever-increasing. As our society becomes digital, we are more vulnerable to our data getting stolen and more cyber frauds.
Things were easy in the past, now just protecting the credit card physically in our pockets is not secure enough. Hackers can snatch your credit card data while the actual card remains safe in your possession. Though there is a significant improvement in technology and online security, hackers keep on finding innovative ways to breach the security and steal our credit card data.
Let us find how hackers snoop into our privacy and steal our credit card information.
1. Data breach
The credit card information is stored in databases in an encrypted format and across very secure private networks. Despite having very high level of information security and encryption in place, hackers may succeed in breaking the security.
A data breach may expose sensitive data to them and can impact millions of customers. In the past, there have been many incidents of data breach which affected millions of customers.
Typically, a malicious attack by a hacker is most common cause of data breach. A hacker may succeed in infecting a computer from far away with malware that gives them some control over the operation of the computer. As the time passes, a malware can steal huge chunks of sensitive information.
Hackers take advantage of security vulnerabilities in the software and operating systems. By exploiting the security vulnerabilities they can get access to customer’s sensitive information.
How to stay safe from Data breach:
Unfortunately, as a customer there is very little that we can do to stop third-party from stealing our data. Hackers keep on targeting the cyber space every time to retrieve sensitive data.
- The one thing that we can do is never allow the retailer to save our credit card information on their servers. Just take out a little time to enter your credit card details every time you make a transaction. By doing this our data will never be stored persistently.
- The data which was not present in the server cannot be stolen! Though a hacker can steal it while we enter our card details but not saving our data definitely provides some level of protection.
- Once the data has been compromised, a company or bank may inform you about potential data breach. You must immediately change the PIN of your debit card and keep a close eye on all the transactions in your account or additionally you may also wish to hot-list your credit card.
- As an organization also it is little to nothing that can be done about the hacker trying to attack the system. The only thing that can be done is to have strong internal security and make sure that there are no known security vulnerabilities in the system. Also, ensure that system is patched with all the security updates.
2. Phishing and spyware
Phishing is a very old and popular strategy used by hackers to steal user’s information. It is a fraudulent practice of sending emails claiming to be from a trustworthy source in order to persuade the user to reveal personal information such as passwords and credit card details. Spyware can also be done via phones and texts.
It may seem that you might not get trapped into phishing scam but Phishers also are very good at their job.
They gain your trust by using familiar logos and company names to represent themselves. Sometimes they entirely replicate a company website and it is hard to distinguish it from the original one.
A victim falling prey of phishing scam can end up giving his/her identity and confidential information. Hackers sometimes use attachments in emails. Clicking on attachments may infect your computer with spyware, which could allow the hacker to retrieve all your confidential data like passwords and credit card details.
How to stay safe from Phishing and spyware:
- As a user you must be cautious about clicking on hyperlinks in unknown emails. It may be a phishing attempt that can infect your system with spyware and send your identity to hacker.
- Never ever provide your credit card details in any email, text or call that convinces you to believe that your account is compromised, and that you need to provide your credit card details immediately to recover it.
- Always look for organization’s web address when in doubt of Phishing attack. Carefully look for any spelling mistakes in company name, also look for tricks such as replacing ‘O’ letter with ‘0’ numeral and ‘l’ letter with ‘1’ numeral.
- A bank or an organization will never ask for credit card details. Any incident of these kind asking your details is probably a Phishing attempt.
3. Using untrusted websites
Online shopping is very popular these days. We are so used to online shopping that we readily provide our credit card information everywhere without giving it a second thought. An information thief may design a fake website with aim of stealing credit card information.
Hackers lure people by directing people to their website in pretext of exciting offers and deals, and they often fall hacker’s victim by providing their credit card data.
How to stay safe from untrusted websites:
- Always make sure that the website is trusted before entering any confidential information. A trusted website’s address usually begin from https:// instead of http://. Https mean that website uses SSL(Secure Socket Layer) for transmitting data between web server and browser.
- Check for green padlock symbol on the website to ensure you are on trusted website when you make payment.
4. Skimming, RFID, NFC and other digital pick-pocketing methods
These are digital devices which aid the hacker to steal your credit card data. Surprisingly they are easily available and one can get them for a few bucks. A smartphone having RFID and NFC capabilities can also be used to steal credit card information with help of Apps.
Skimming is stealing the information from the card itself. There are digital skimmers available that are small portable devices that can be used to swipe the card and they can read the credit card details. They can be used in variety of ways to steal credit card information.
Skimmers can be attached to ATM and other automatic card readers to read user’s data without knowledge of them. Credit cards are protected by 4 digit PIN, a hacker may also attach a hidden miniature camera near ATM keypad in order to read the keys pressed.
RFID readers are yet another smart way of digital pickpocketing. They can be used to steal data from contact less payment cards. These cards use RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to transfer data and need not be swiped.
Though convenient, this technology has a major security flaw. A thief can steal your credit card information by standing just next to you. All the thief needs to do is get an RFID device in a close range (approximately six inches) to the card.
Some phones are equipped with Near-Field Communication (NFC) chip in it. NFC can be used to share your credit card information to the retailer. Retailers like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Visa PayWave support NFC payment.
The biggest concern around NFC payments is security. If an NFC reader is compromised or tampered with, it could be giving your credit card information to information thief in a similar way as RFID.
How to stay safe from Skimmers, RFID, and NFC pickpocketing
- Make use of EMV credit card instead of a traditional magnetic stripe card. It comes with an EMV chip which changes card’s information every time it is used. Thus it is effective against skimming. The data read by skimmer will become useless once the transaction is completed.
- Always cover the number panel of ATM with other hand while entering the PIN. Hackers may have installed mini camera for spying. Also, do not use the ATM if you find the number panel or anything suspicious.
- Whenever possible, use ATMs located within bank buildings. These are more secure and less likely to be tampered by a hacker.
- There are some RFID blocking wallets which are available to protect us from RFID pickpocketing. These wallets block the radio signals from RFID reader that may be present nearby and increase the security of your RFID-embedded cards.
Having discussed the various ways in which credit card data theft may happen and how easy it is for hackers to steal information. It is important to take all the precautionary measures to protect your data.
While complete security from data thefts can never be guaranteed in cyber world, we can definitely reduce the likelihood of such incidents. All we need is a little awareness of latest trends in cyber security and remain watchful while making online transactions.