Major Security Breach At Atlanta Credit Card Processor; Experts Warn Consumers To Check Transactions

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Isn't that just swell? Naturally, you have almost no protection if you're using a debit card, so you might as well kiss any illusion of security goodbye. I'm really beginning to understand people who hide money under their mattresses.

You should pay close attention to your accounts, but as one quoted expert says, you need to be especially vigilant right now:

Visa and MasterCard acknowledged Friday that they've been alerting banks about a major breach at Global Payments, an Atlanta-based payment card processing firm.

Global Payments issued a statement late Friday saying it discovered the breach in March and reported it to industry officials and the FBI. The company scheduled a press conference for Monday morning.

Gartner banking security analyst Avivah Litan says unverified reports point to a New York City street gang with Central American ties taking control of "an administrative account that was not protected sufficiently."

"I've spoken with folks in the card business who are seeing signs of this breach mushroom," says Litan.

Security blogger Brian Krebs, who broke the story, says thieves cracked into the Global Payments network between Jan. 21 and Feb. 25. He says they may have swiped more than 10 million credit and debit card transactions records. .

MasterCard issued a statement advising cardholders to contact the financial institution that issued their cards with any concerns. Visa emphasized that no Visa systems were breached.

But criminals generally don't bother highly defended systems, and look for security flaws elswhere. "Sooner or later they find some weakness in the highly complex chain of systems that they can exploit," says Geoff Webb, of data security firm Credant Technologies.

Credit card processors have been breached before. Heartland Payment Systems lost 130 million payment card records generated by 250,000 merchants and restaurants between 2008 and 2009.

[...] "You should always be watching your statements for unauthorized transactions; but right now people should be extra vigilant," says Steve Coggeshall chief technology officer at ID Analytics.

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