Target, Neiman Marcus, P.F. Chang's and eBay are just a few of the many major American corporations to report being hacked by cyber thieves so far in the past year. Now a new report points to the home improvement retail chain Home Depot as the latest data breach victim of 2014.
IT security expert Brian Krebs reports on September 2, 2014, that a number of banks have traced the black market sale of credit and debit card data to transactions carried out at Home Depot locations around the country. While the retailer says that it is currently investigating the matter with banks and law enforcement, if true, this incident could leave thousands of recent Home Depot customers at risk for identity theft.
"I can confirm we are looking into some unusual activity and we are working with our banking partners and law enforcement to investigate," Home Depot spokesperson Paula Drake said in an official statement. "Protecting our customers' information is something we take extremely seriously, and we are aggressively gathering facts at this point while working to protect customers. If we confirm that a breach has occurred, we will make sure customers are notified immediately. Right now, for security reasons, it would be inappropriate for us to speculate further - but we will provide further information as soon as possible."
Because a data breach has not been conclusively proven yet, it isn't known how exactly this cyber crime may have occurred, though past examples point to two distinct possibilities.
In one scenario, hackers may have cracked into the company's internal databases, stealing data wholesale before turning it around onto the black market. The other possibility is that the thieves may have installed malware onto credit card readers and other physical point-of-sale systems, which would clone credit and debit information as the cards are physically swiped at stores - unbeknownst both the cashier and the customer. This latter case was found to be the culprit for the data breaches at Target last year and P.F. Chang's earlier this spring.
According to Krebs, the hack may have potentially affected the customers of 2,200 Home Depot locations. While it's not immediately clear who was responsible, the preliminary evidence points to the same group of Ukrainian and Russian hackers who also perpetrated the Target and P.F. Chang's data breaches.
As ID theft and cyber attacks become increasingly prevalent, it's only going to be even more imperative to invest in identity theft protection measures. This trend of data breaches is only going to get worse before it gets better, if it ever does, and it's simply not practical to abandon charge cards and the internet to carry on a theft-free lifestyle - nor should you have to! Luckily, there are options that can help you protect your identity without having to change your life.
A credit monitoring service can oversee your credit file for certain kinds of items that may indicate theft of identity. Should certain activity be detected, the service will then promptly notify you so you can take further proactive steps, such as placing a credit freeze on your accounts or filing a fraud report with the three major credit reporting bureaus.
While they can't promise complete identity protection, credit monitoring services can go a long way in helping you stay apprised of certain activity associated with your personal information.