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Argos buries unencrypted credit card data in email receipts

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Catalogue firm Argos has been criticised for an email security breach that exposed customers’ credit card details and CCV security numbers.

The exposure came to light after an Argos customer who checked his order confirmation email found that his credit card number and security code was buried in the HTML source of the message. The slip-up meant that any miscreants who intercepted email confirmation messages from Argos would be able to harvest plastic card payment details - if they spotted where the numbers were stashed.

The breach was discovered by UK Argos customer Tony Graham and first reported by PC Pro. Graham's card details were recently fraudulently misused, but this incident has not been linked to the Argos email slip-up.

It's unclear how long the exposure problem lasted, or how many Argos customers were affected.

In a statement, Argos said it had already corrected the fault and was working with privacy watchdogs at the Information Commissioner’s Office in dealing with the fallout from the breach.

Argos takes the security of its customers’ data extremely seriously, is fully aware of the requirements of the Data Protection Act and has taken remedial action in relation to this matter.

We are in contact with the Information Commissioner’s Office. We have made them aware of our approach to customer communications and will continue to work closely with them to ensure we are taking all appropriate actions.

Ed Rowley, product manager EMEA at content security firm M86 Security, said the whole incident might easily have been prevented. “It is incomprehensible that this credit card data was sent out in an unencrypted format - even if the sensitive information was not visible in the main body it should have been protected from being sent out," he said.

"A good email content filtering product could have enforced encryption or blocked this data from being sent out at all by Argos, using standard or default email security rules.

"This case highlights the need to filter both inbound and outbound email in order to guard against malware coming in but also to block sensitive information from leaking out. It’s astonishing that larger companies are not using these well established security tools and procedures." ®

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