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Identity and data theft: How hackers target and steal your credit card information

Identity and data theft: How hackers target and steal your credit card information

Theft and exploitation of payment card data has become one of the biggest threats to virtually every sector, particularly the retail and financial industries. Hackers have been expanding their nefarious techniques to steal millions of customers' personal and financial details, resulting in massive, embarrassing security breaches.

Take for instance, the 2017 Equifax breach that saw the compromise of approximately 209,000 US customers. By gaining access to a user’s credit card information, hackers can perform various malicious activities such as selling it in on the dark web, conducting credit card fraud or purchasing high-end products and luxury items. Here are some of the numerous ways an attacker can attempt to steal one's banking or payment card details:

Installing data-stealing malware

Most cyber attacks are executed using common social engineering techniques such as the simple fake email. These spoofed emails are designed to impersonate a bank, financial firm or related banking executives and prompt the recipient to provide their credit card details for verification purposes. Often these emails come attached with a malicious link that conceals data-stealing malware such as banking Trojan. Once installed, hackers can glean vital information about the victim's system, credentials and more. In addition to phishing emails, hackers also leverage free and unsafe public Wi-Fi networks to dupe people into installing malware by deploying fake software update notifications.

Adding a skimmer to PoS devices

Another frequently used method for attackers to collect credit card information is through PoS device skimming. In this process, the crooks infect or implant a separate device in ATM machines or PoS (Point-of-Sale) devices to steal credit card information. Once a credit card is swiped, the skimmer captures and stores all details available in the card’s magnetic stripe such as the credit card number, the card holder's full name, expiration date and more. Cyber thieves often install these skimmers at gas stations and other frequently used locations to steal data, sell it or exploit it online, or even create fake cards in order to withdraw cash from the victim’s account.

Hacking e-commerce websites

Online retail websites are often treasure troves of customers' personal and financial data. In order to enhance the shopping experience of users online, many websites allow customers to store their payment card information to make future transactions faster and simpler. However, threat actors often target these websites to access the vast cache of user information they hold. Third-party firms hired by these businesses to store customer data are also targeted since they often have lax security measures that are ripe for attackers to exploit.

Tricking users into handing over their information

One of the simplest and frequently used methods of credit card breach is fake phone calls. The hackers actually call the victim pretending to be a bank employee and trick them into divulging their financial details. Hence, users must always be wary of phone calls, messages and emails that request them to provide their personal, financial and banking details. Instead, they must report the matter immediately to the bank.

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