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Retailers Easy Hacking Target

[Dec 10, 2007.]


A new study indicates that retailers are prime targets for computer hacking.

AirDefense Inc., a producer of security measures for wireless data systems, discovered that one in four store access points were trading information with no type of encryption. Encryption is a scrambling system that's used in an attempt to thwart would-be hackers.

What's more, AirDefense found that half of more than 3,000 retailers use wireless data transmission systems that could be easily infiltrated. As a result, thieves could steal credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and other private consumer information.

Computer experts say that it doesn't require a great deal of expertise to discover wireless access points. In fact, it can easily be done with the aid of a laptop.

The security survey may be the largest ever conducted involving retail operations. The undercover effort took 6 months and occurred at shopping centers in major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Boston. Surveys were also conducted overseas in London and Paris.

The chief security officer for AirDefense, Richard Rushing, told the news media, "The bad guys are going to go for the low-hanging fruit, and that's the wireless networks."

Some experts say that the AirDefense study exposes only the most obvious security failures within the retail industry. In fact, retailers may face a much greater security problem than many realize.

AirDefense has informed individual retailers of the problems it uncovered, but it is not releasing the list of vulnerable targets to the general public. The National Retail Federation and major credit card issuers have been tight-lipped about the security survey.

However, officials at VISA have said that 65% of the nation's biggest retailers meet card industry security standards. That's nearly double the number that was in compliance at this time last year.

Julie Ann Amos
December 10th 2007

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