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Money Minute: Another day, another data hacking [video]

March 30, 2012|By David Lazarus

Those footsteps you hear are the sound of some hacker or identity thief potentially making off with your personal information.

MasterCard says it's investigating a possible security breach related to a third-party vendor and has alerted banks and law enforcement officials. Some reports identify the vendor as Global Payments, which processes credit-card transactions.

As many as 50,000 MasterCard and Visa cardholders may be at risk, according to some accounts of the breach. Others say a "massive" amount of consumer data may be threatened, perhaps involving millions of people.

"MasterCard is concerned whenever there is any possibility that cardholders could be inconvenienced and we continue to both monitor this event and take steps to safeguard account information," the company says. "If cardholders have any concerns about their individual accounts, they should contact their issuing financial institution."

This latest breach -- collect them all -- highlights yet again the vulnerability of sensitive info in the Internet age, and the clear fact that the corporate stewards of our data aren't doing enough to keep things under wrap.

What more could they do? They could encrypt all databases. They could prohibit information from ever leaving a workplace on employees' laptops. They could impose additional safeguards such as passwords and PINs for even routine access to networks.

These are cumbersome and costly measures, and that's why most businesses have resisted doing them. So that's why we also need some teeth.

How about a fine of $1,000 for every consumer affected by a breach? So if 50,000 cardholders are on the line, that's a penalty of $50 million.

That might light a fire under a CEO or two.

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