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US credit unions are reporting a security breach affecting credit and debit card numbers involving a payment processor firm. Neither the name of the company at the centre of the snafu nor how many records might be involved has been disclosed.

Official word of the breach came when the Community Bankers Association reported that Visa informed the group that a payment processor had suffered an attack that resulted in the potential disclosure of card numbers and expiration dates. Social Security numbers, PINs, addresses or telephone numbers or other personal information was not disclosed by the breach. The name of the firm at the centre of the problem was withheld pending completion of the forensic investigation, according to a February 11 statement.

The breach was significant but affected fewer records than were involved in the recent breach of Heartland Payment Systems, another US-based e-commerce payment processing firm. Heartland said that hackers planted malware on its systems, but didn't say how many records were disclosed as a result.

According to a post of the Tuscaloosa Virginia Credit Union website, the latest payment processor breach was also malware related and involved the firm's "settlement system of stored transaction information". Visa and Mastercard started notifying affected card holders earlier this month, it adds.

Another statement by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association adds that no track data, PIN, CVV2/CVC2 data or cardholder-identifying information was exposed by the breach.

All these statements might collectively be taken to imply that actual fraud as a result of the breach is unlikely. However, a notification by the Alabama Credit Union dispels that comforting notion:

We have been notified by VISA that a lengthy list of VISA ATM/Debit Card numbers was included as part of a data breach at an unknown vendor's location. VISA has declined to name the vendor or processor. The fraudulent transactions are primarily characterized as purchases of prepaid phone cards, prepaid gift cards, and money orders from Wal-Mart, and usually occur in $100 increments.

In response to the attack, the credit union is limiting purchases to $99 per day on existing cards and issuing replacement cards. PIN-authorise ATM transactions up to $500 a day are still being allowed.

Security blog site DataBreaches.net, which has been tracking reports of the breach, has more commentary on the developing story here. ®

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