Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/06/18/mastercard_breach/

MasterCard fingers partner in 40m card security breach

Record setting lapse

By Ashlee Vance

Posted in Security, 18th June 2005 18:19 GMT

MasterCard has blamed a single individual for compromising up to 40m credit card accounts - a total marking the security breach as one of the most massive to date.

In a PR nightmare for a financial services company, MasterCard issued a statement saying it had notified banks, payment processors and law enforcement officials of the credit card crack. MasterCard identified CardSystems Solutions - a third-party that processes payments - as owner of the compromised system that revealed the huge amount of customer accounts.

"(V)ulnerabilities allowed an unauthorized individual to infiltrate their network and access the cardholder data," MasterCard said.

To its credit, MasterCard was quick to notify the public about the issue, saying up to 14m of its credit cards were affected. Other credit card companies have yet to put out statements on the matter, although a Visa spokeswoman was quoted as saying up to 22m of the company's cards could have been compromised.

These types of security breaches have become all too common. Organizations such as LexisNexis, ChoicePoint, PayMaxx, Bank of America, San Jose Medical Group, California State University at Chico, Boston College, the University of California at Berkeley, and a large shoe retailer called DSW have all reported the loss of sensitive data. Millions of people have been affected as a result.

CardSystems discovered a "potential security incident" on May 22 and notified the FBI about the problem the next day. As investigators looked into the situation, CardSystems began an internal security audit and hired a firm to assess the security of its systems.

"CardSystems is completing the installation of enhanced/additional security procedures recommended by the security assessor involved in the investigation," the company said.

"We understand and fully appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Our customers and their customers are our lifeblood. We are sparing no effort to get to the bottom of this matter. Our goal is to cooperate fully with the FBI to complete the investigation and ensure that we do nothing that might compromise the investigation."

MasterCard was quick to point out that it does not store prized information such as social security numbers or dates of birth on its cards.

"Protecting cardholders, preventing fraud, and safeguarding financial information is a top priority at MasterCard," the company said. ®

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