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After one year of multiple high-profile data breaches targeting point of sale (POS) software used by retailers, millions of customers were at risk of potential credit card fraud. However, the retailers and banks also have endured a heavy financial burden, and this Christmas shopping season could bring a new round of cyber breaches, security experts warned.
"The threat actors are going to be burning the midnight oil trying to get credit card data going into the holiday season," said Brian Foster, chief technology of the Damballa security firm. "Retailers need to be prepared and diligent in the fourth quarter."
Target suffered a breach that led to 40 million customers having their debit and credit card data stolen, only two days before Black Friday in 2013. The BackOff malware has successfully breached more than 1,000 businesses and retailers, the Department of Homeland Security noted.
After an avalanche of retailer data breaches, leaving millions of consumers affected, many US shoppers are now receiving new credit cards with microchips. Half of merchants are expected to support new cards with microchips by the end of 2014 - in place of magnetic stripes on most cards - as chip-and-pin helps increase cybersecurity.
Chip-and-pin cards are entered into a card reader, with data encrypted using a unique security code for each transaction - cardholders required to enter a PIN number.
Walgreens has rolled out the new terminals already, while Walmart is expected to begin replacing most of them by next month. The chip-and-pin technology has been successfully implemented in Europe, despite the cost of sending new cards, along with purchasing new ATMs and payment terminals at retailers. The cards cost up to $2.50 each, with terminals typically ranging from $300 to $400, and the new generation of ATMs
Chinese electronics company Xiaomi plans to begin migrating some data of overseas customers out of Beijing-based servers, as there are concerns related to privacy concerns. The effort will see data shifted to servers located in the United States and Singapore, Xiaomi confirmed.
Here is what Xiaomi said on its official Facebook page: "Our primary goal in moving to a multi-site server architecture was to improve the performance of our services for Mi fans around the world, cut down latency and reduce failure rates. At the same time, it also better equips us to maintain high privacy standards and comply with local data protection regulations. This is a very high priority for Xiaomi as we expand into new markets over the next few years."
While Xiaomi plans to move customer data outside of China, Apple iCloud data of Chinese users is being moved to China Telecom servers located inside of the country.
The large volume of cyberattacks aimed at U.S. infrastructure, including banks and private sector companies, has finally led the U.S. Justice Department to begin showing interest in prosecuting cyberattack crimes. Assistant Attorney General John Carlin is spearheading the project, with a more realistic emphasis on cyber security efforts.
"We need to develop the capability and bandwidth to deal with what we can see as an evolving threat," Carlin recently noted. He is building a team around him able to understand the seriousness of state-sponsored cyberattacks, especially by the Chinese and Russian governments.
Instead of worrying about rogue hackers, the government wants to work to dismantle organized hacker groups that victimize US companies - and consumers, with millions of victims racked up. This is an important step by the federal government, which tried to bury its head in the sand, though that not surprisingly hasn't worked.
Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers is the latest to speak out against former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, saying the American - currently living in Russia - should be charged with murder. Rogers currently is the chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, and also described Snowden as a traitor to the United States.
"The [US] government has pressed charges on Mr. Snowden," Rogers recently said. "We are treating him, as I would argue, the traitor that he is. And by the way, and this is important, I would charge him for murder."
Although Snowden isn't popular among US lawmakers, Rogers took it a step further by saying Snowden's actions will end up causing American or British casualties on the battlefield. Other politicians already said enemies are changing their strategies to avoid being noticed by US and British intelligence agencies.
Apple has issued a warning to iCloud users about organized cyberattacks, after previously noting that its servers were not breached. The Chinese government is being blamed for the attacks, but Apple was careful not to finger any attacks based in China.
"We're aware of intermittent organized network attacks using insecure certificates to obtain user information, and we take this very seriously," Apple recently noted. "If users get an invalid certificate warning in their browser while visiting http://www.icloud.com, they should pay attention to the warning and not proceed."
This is another wave of bad news for Apple, occurring shortly after multiple celebrities had personal images stolen from their iCloud accounts.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now concerned of cybersecurity flaws discovered in medical devices, with two dozen reported incidents, according to officials. A Hospira infusion pump and St. Jude Medical Inc and Medtronic implantable heart devices are now being reviewed by the DHS Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT). There is no evidence that these products have been successfully compromised by hackers, but the DHS wants to try to prevent it from happening in the future.
"The conventional wisdom in the past was that products only had to be protected from unintentional threats," said William Maisel, FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health chief scientist noted. "Now they also have to be protected from intentional threats too."
As medical technology advances, the "smart" devices are susceptible to hacker interference, cybersecurity experts warn, though it appears compromising these medical products would still be rather difficult.
Office retailer Staples was the latest high-profile company hit by a data breach, with customers in the Northeastern United States affected. The US Secret Service is now investigating the incident, which involved debit and credit card data of an unknown number of customers. It appears retail locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York were hit, but it's possible stores in other states were also targeted.
"We take the protection of customers information very seriously, and are working to resolve the situation," Staples said in a statement. "If Staples discovers an issue, it is important to note that customers are not responsible for any fraudulent activity on their credit cards that is reported on a timely basis."
Retailers are struggling to keep data secure, as similar attacks have victimized Target, Home Depot, Kmart, Sears, with millions of customers across the country affected by these breaches.
The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the top Wall Street trade group, wants increased inter-agency efforts to create cybersecurity guidelines for the financial industry. Instead of a "one size fits all" approach to cyberattacks, regulators would be able to ensure cybersecurity rules force companies to conduct "risk-based" and "value-added" audits.
"You could have a patchwork... for a big global bank, of five or six regulators all looking at this from a slightly different perspective, with slightly different guidance or principles of what they think is effective," said Karl Schimmeck, SIFMA managing director of financial services operations, in a statement to Reuters.
Banks and financial companies already use stronger cybersecurity than other private sector companies, but JPMorgan Chase's recent breach indicated they clearly aren't immune from high-profile cyberattacks. The U.S. federal government is battling how to force companies to disclose breaches, along with helping them defend against future attacks.
Well, that didn't take long: China is denying any responsibility in reported Apple iCloud attacks aimed at compromising Chinese users. The "man in the middle" (MITM) attack mimicked other similar cyberattacks the Chinese government has used in the past, and could have been carried out by state-sponsored groups.
Chinese government officials said Beijing is "resolutely opposed" to the cyberattacks, with China Telecom - a state-owned Internet service provider - saying the iCloud attack was "untrue and unfounded."
Meanwhile, Apple denies that its iCloud servers were breached by the Chinese government - or anyone else - with the attacks expected to continue. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were recently launched in China, which is why the cyberattacks took place so quickly.