The potential breach was first reported by renowned cyber security researcher Brian Krebs, who picked up on speculation from several banks in the Northeastern United States that suggests numerous Staples locations may have had their customer databases hit with malicious malware. Krebs intuited in a post on his blog that this potential breach was likely completed using similar invasive spyware that was at the root of the recent Dairy Queen, Michaels and Target credit card hacks.
While it is impossible to truly gauge the complete scope of one particular breach – many victims don’t even know that their identities have been compromised until months or even years later – anyone who has shopped at Staples or one of the other stores plagued with security compromises over the past year should take steps to invest in credit monitoring. Not only should shoppers be adamant about keeping track of their own financial history and the activity taking place in their name, but they should also be smart about how they shop in the future.
What is perhaps most concerning is the timing of all of these data breaches, which seem to be proliferating as we approach the busiest shopping season of the year. Not only will shoppers be hitting the malls and online retailers in droves in the coming months, so too will potential identity thieves.
According to Krebs and a slew of other sources, this breach is most likely an offshoot of the Backoff malware program that took advantage of a flaw in popular Point of Sale (POS) systems at brick-and-mortar retailers over the summer. If this is the case, the most likely victims were probably those charging their debit and credit cards at physical Staples locations.
Because these breaches have proven to be much more widespread than initial reports have indicated in the past – and that many victims may not even be seeing the repercussions of the breach immediately – individuals across the country should start the holiday shopping season off right by taking a close look at their credit reports.
In a 2013 study from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency found that one in five consumers has an error on their credit report that could be incorrectly weighing against their credit score. The same FTC report found that approximately four out of five consumers who filed disputes with credit reporting bureaus saw their report modified.
Not only is it wise for individuals to play in active role in monitoring their credit, they should also make sure they keep identity theft at the front of their mind throughout the upcoming holiday season. Identity thieves are on the lookout for individuals who have left their guard down, so shoppers need to spend wisely whether they are in a store or using online retail in the coming months.