Data breaches don’t take a holiday at the arcade

Published: December 27, 2011 by ofonseca

A recent data breach discovery serves as a reminder that even when you’re on vacation, cyber criminals never sleep.

Vacationland Vendors, a company that supplies vending machines and video games to entertainment venues, recently reported that an unknown intruder penetrated its point of sale systems, resulting in a data breach affecting approximately 40,000 customers at waterland resorts in Tennessee and Wisconsin.  Although credit card and debit information was apparently stolen between December 2008 and May 2011, Vacationland Vendors did not state how the breach was discovered or whether affected customers have been notified.  The company did issue a general recommendation to anyone who visited the affected resorts within the targeted time frame to remain vigilant for fraud activity on their bank and credit card statements and to consider adding a fraud alert with the major credit bureaus.

The Vacationland Vendors data breach highlights the continued vulnerabilities of point of sale technology to crafty cyber criminals. Heartland Payment Systems, a leading payment processing company, discovered this several years ago when it was hit by a historically large breach that exposed the accounts of as many as 100 million cardholders.  The same kind of breach affected CardSystems Solutions when a breach exposed the accounts of 40 million debit and credit card holders, leading to the sale and ultimate closure of the company.  Indeed, the theft of credit card data is one of the most common forms of fraud and the very reason that the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard strengthened its requirements of payment card device vendors last year.

The debate about how to best secure credit card transactions has continued this year with the burgeoning introduction of end to end encryption technologies that can better protect cardholder data throughout the entire transaction process.  An example of improved safety mechanisms in the POS process is newer chip and PIN technology, as evidenced by Visa’s recent announcement that it is accelerating chip migration and adoption of mobile payments.

Until the technology around POS systems is more bulletproof, it’s especially important for companies to implement added safety measures around its current credit card payment processes.