NEW YORK (CNN) – Your money and credit can become targets of international fraud. In a global payments system, where your money can cross between continents and currencies in a matter of seconds, no one is safe.
First there was cash, then checks, then credit cards, smartphones and even, crypto-currencies.
The size and scale of non-cash economy is huge. One report estimates non-cash transactions topped 333 billion in 2012. That’s 47 for each man, woman, and child on the planet. The more money sloshing through the system, the greater the risk.
“Over the past four years secret service cyber-crime investigations have resulted in over 4,900 arrests, associated with approximately $1.37 billion in fraud losses,” says William Noonan, U.S. secret service.
The recent cases of U.S. retailers target and Neiman Marcus were a global wake-up call. In New York, the district attorney admits it’s his greatest challenge.
“I think it is a tsunami, I think that cyber-crime, identity theft is occurring at a pace and a level which make it one of the most significant criminal developments that we’ve seen in our generation,” said Cyrus Vance, New York County district attorney.
The target case exposed not just the magnitude of the problem; it also revealed the sophistication of those behind it.
“Is it a case of skimming the numbers from the back of the card, cloning the card, looking at the card in the restaurant or the shop, that’s one aspect of it but we’re often talking here about a much more sophisticated element aren’t we,” said Michael Kingston, Senior V.P. and CIO of Neiman Marcus group.
“We’re also looking at situations where because of criminals’ technical expertise obviously they are doing things as alleged in the target case, going through the software that controlled the air system in the company and through the back door being able to move into data and identify customer data, customer credit card numbers and the like,” said John mulligan, Executive V.P. and CFO of Target brands.
The real victims are the consumers. Both Target and Neiman Marcus are investigating.
“We have learned that the malware that penetrated our system was extremely sophisticated.”
And have apologized.
“I want to say how deeply sorry we are for the impact this incident has had on our guests, your constituents.”
Both are still facing major class action lawsuits.
“The lawsuit is not only about compensating the actual consumers who were harmed and that harm was widespread and very serious, but it’s also, it also looks to the future. One of the things the consumers are seeking through the lawsuit is that target implement measures the kinds of measures that will assure the consumers private information is secure,” said Tina Wolfson, Attorney for Target and Neiman Marcus victims.
The future will mean a greater effort from everyone. From the credit card companies and retailers adopting newer, safer technology.
“Target is accelerating our investment in chip technology for our target red cards and stores point of sales terminals.”
To law enforcement working together.
“What it really requires is more cooperation internationally.”
To every individual staying alert when they spend.