This CUbit is an extension of a comment I shared on a CUInsight article today. You can view the full story (and my comment) here. Background: Wendy’s appears to have experienced a POS (Point of Sale) breach sometime in the past, oh, few years. The malware (bad software) has crept around their systems and locations under the radar, only mentioned briefly in a corporate report and supported by credit unions seeing increased debit card fraud from members who frequented the chain.

I don’t eat at Wendy’s, so my cards are not compromised (by this breach, at least). But why should that make a difference? Just because you enjoy an occasional Frosty doesn’t mean you should have to watch your account for fraud. And, in all honesty, when faced with limited options, I’ll have their baked potato. Will I pay with plastic? Of course. Will millions of others? Sure.

If you read my posts regularly, you’ll know this isn’t the first one on merchant breaches. Nor will it be the last. At least with how they’re treated today. The onus on security is akin to me paying someone to watch my car, having it stolen, then the watcher just looking at me while shrugging their shoulders. When was the last time you heard about a card breach affecting the issuer? That’s right, almost never. Because they care about security. In fact, they have regulations mandating their adherence to stringent policies. Whether you’re Bank of America, our regional community bank, or one of thousands of credit unions, you protect card information. And given how rare an issue arises, I’d say you are all doing a great job.

(From this point, my original story comment is expanded upon, so if it looks familiar, that’s on purpose, and thank you for reading!)

My frustration isn’t with the credit unions. Not at all. It’s with the retailers. Wendy’s just happens to be the case in point today. Let me repeat what I’ve said before many times: We. Have. The. Technology. To. End. Breaches.

Between adopting EMV and contactless payment (Apple Pay, Android Pay, CU Wallet, etc.), we can have tokenized transactions at all purchases. This means your card number, unless physically lost/stolen, is impossible to be compromised. Even if the merchant’s system is crawling with malware. All the criminals get is a one-time use number (which is immediately identified as fraud when attempted again). The number you see on the piece of plastic never appears on their end.

Would new systems solve the problem? Mostly. But there are also an enormous amount of dangerous practices still being performed. Know anything about PCI compliance? No way these actions would pass. Now you want examples, so here are two I’ve experienced in just the past few weeks. The first came while I was with a friend getting his car serviced. This wasn’t at a mom-and-pop shop, rather, he went to one of the largest dealerships in the southeast United States. What did they do upon payment? They photocopied his credit card, front and back, to store with his service paperwork.

Let me repeat: They took a picture of his credit card. Then they put it in a glass office with hundreds of others, in full view of staff and customers. “We lock that office”, they said. Color me comforted.

Another crazy action occurred just two days ago at a hotel in Los Angeles. Upon check-in, hotels like to keep your card on file for incidentals (or if you decide to rock-star-style destroy the room). That’s fine, and there’s a proper way to do it. This Comfort Inn (again, big company which knows better) took an imprint and put it with the regular paperwork, under no lock and key.

And we wonder why breaches are so common (imagine their security on digital if that’s how they treat in-person).

Since merchants (especially multi-nationals) have little responsibility in the breaches (it’s not like we’ve heard credit unions talk about this before…), they are slow to make any changes. If they had to burden 100% of the breach costs, do you think we’d still have major merchants doing such dumb things with your information?

As a technologist, it’s incredibly frustrating to see event after event of preventable breaches occur, while those completely not in the wrong having to bear the costs (the Big 3, community banks, and credit unions all included).

Plus, who likes having to reset all of your automatic payments and online shopping accounts?

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/11406986014/