For millions of individuals across the country, their holiday season was tarnished by a string of massive data breaches that put personal financial information such as credit card account numbers – and, in some cases, even Social Security numbers – at risk of theft. And while the security failures at major retailers like Target, Neiman Marcus and T.J. Maxx, among others, may seem like a recent trend, the truth of the matter is that these kinds of breaches have been going on for years and should have been a major concern for shoppers well before Christmas 2013. However, researchers are finding that thanks to modern technology and more sophisticated thieving tactics, criminals who compromise major databases are harder to combat than ever, which means customers have to be much more wary of their spending habits.
“As we use more and more technologies to collaborate among businesses, or to connect with consumers using mobile devices and other kinds of applications that allow consumers to interface with various corporations, what you have is an attack surface that keeps increasing in size and complexity, making it very hard to secure,” David Burg, leader of cybersecurity at PricewaterhouseCoopers told NPR’s All Tech Considered blog.
The reason the problem has been so far reaching of late is the fact that, despite significant pressure on retailers to alert customers, regulatory officials and law enforcement authorities as soon as possible when these attacks occur, criminals are getting better every day at covering their tracks.
While retailers may be slow to alert you to potential theft, individuals can take proactive measures to detect potential incidents of theft before big businesses by enlisting in a credit monitoring service. While there is no way to prevent ID theft 100 percent of the time, a credit monitor will recognize certain activity on your credit report and tell you about it as it appears, giving you enough time to take appropriate measures to recuperate any losses.