Data Breaches in Retail Stores

What is a Data Breach?

A breach refers to unauthorized access to sensitive data. A data breach will often result in the obtainment of personal data including driver’s license numbers, banking information, credit card numbers, personal health information, medical records, social security numbers, and passwords or mailing addresses. A data breach can be either accidental or deliberate. Cyber criminals can gain access to your personal data if you share your confidential or protected information with them.

They can obtain this data by infiltrating your network with malware or through accidental disclosure by a company employee. One of the most common methods used by hackers are socially engineered scams like phishing emails, social networking trends, or phone calls.

Data breaches in retail environments

What Have Been the Biggest Data Breaches?

One of the biggest data breaches in history occurred in 2013 when hackers accessed the servers of retail giant Target. The breach exposed the personal information, including credit and debit card information, of over 40 million customers.

More about the 2013 Target hack:

Another major data breach occurred in 2014, when hackers gain access to the servers of JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest banks in the US. The breach exposed the personal information of 76 million households and 7 million small businesses bank account numbers.

In 2017, Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the world, announced a data breach that affected 143 million Americans. Hackers accessed sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses.

In 2018, Marriott International announced a data breach affecting the personal information of up to 500 million guests. The breach, which began in 2014, exposed information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, passport numbers, and credit card information.

In 2018, Under Armour announced a data breach affecting 150 million MyFitnessPal app users. The hackers accessed users’ usernames, email addresses and hashed passwords.

Data breaches in retail organizations resulting in the loss of confidential data

What is a Data Leak or Spill?

A data leak, on the other hand, refers to the unintentional or accidental release of sensitive information. This can occur when an employee accidentally emails sensitive data to the wrong person or when a company unintentionally publishes sensitive information on their website or provides access to a corporate database. A data leak, though not malicious, can still harm individuals and organizations, leading to significant consequences.

What is the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in Retail Stores?

Personally identifiable information (PII) in retail stores includes indentifying details like name, address, phone, email, and credit card information. This protected information is often collected through customer transactions, loyalty programs, and marketing campaigns. Retail stores must fulfill a legal obligation to safeguard this sensitive information, as it falls under the protection of various privacy laws. A data breach of PII can lead to identity theft, financial fraud, and other serious consequences for the affected individuals.

Loss of personal identifiable information in data breaches

Uncovering the Top Methods of Data Breaches: Understanding the Risks and How to Protect Yourself

How Do Data Breaches Happen?

Data breaches happen in retail stores in a variety of ways. The most common methods of data breaches in retails include:

Hacking: Retail stores may be targeted by cybercriminals who use various techniques such as phishing, malware, and ransomware to gain unauthorized access to their computer systems and steal customer data.

Insider threats: Employees or contractors of a retail store may deliberately or accidentally expose customer data by identity theft, stealing it, mishandling it, or sharing it.

Unsecured networks: Retail stores may have unsecured networks that are targets to hacking and data breaches if proper security measures are not in place.

Point-of-sale (POS) systems: Massive data breaches in retail stores are often related to POS systems that process financial data. Typically, organizations do not adequately secure these operating systems.

Third-party vendors: Retail stores that use third-party vendors for their IT operating systems or data storage may be vulnerable to data breaches if these vendors do not have adequate security measures in place.

Social Engineering: Attackers employ this tactic to deceive employees, inducing them to disclose confidential information or grant access to company systems.

Physical theft: A simple way to steal data is using the physical means, such as stealing laptop, computer system, mobile devices, or paper records containing sensitive data and use of this stolen information for financial gain.

How Can You Prevent Data Breaches?

To protect against data breaches, retail stores and chains must implement strict security protocols such as firewalls, intrusion and security incident detection and prevention systems, encrypted passwords for databases, and inform employees about access controls and consequences of using compromised data. They should also comply with industry regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Regular security assessments and penetration testing should also be conducted to monitor security flaws.

In summary, data leaks and breaches are a growing concern for retail stores and chains. They can put customer protected data at risk and cause significant financial losses and damage to a company’s reputation. It is the responsibility of retail businesses to ensure this data is safe and secure. Retail companies must implement strict security protocols and comply with industry regulations to protect against data breaches. Regular security assessments and penetration testing can also help to identify vulnerabilities and ensure that systems are secure.