Target cyber attack bigger than thought


If you are not worried about your credit cards, security experts insist you should be.

The Target cyber attack is bigger and more sophisticated than first thought. Security experts now say one in three Americans - 110 million credit card users - are potential victims. Experts insist the worst isn't over: The attack may be spreading to other businesses.

The cyber theft and growing threat to more than 100 million credit card users is setting off alarms in computer security operation centers around the world, including one in Indianapolis. It's filled with computers, screens and workers analyzing the data flashing across them.

"Some of our clients became our clients because they were hit by this and they didn't have the right controls in place to prevent the attacks," said Rook Security CEO J.J. Thompson. "This one is nasty. These attackers took everything they need to take."

To take money and identities from shoppers, names, PINs, phone numbers, addresses and emails were all stolen in the time it took to swipe a credit card.

Every expert we spoke with says consumers who didn't take security breaches seriously in the past need to change their way of thinking. Mikel Inabnit, unfortunately, knows why.

"It was real scary," he said. "I didn't know if it was going to affect my credit or what was going to happen."

After swiping his debit card in a local Target store, Inabnit says someone swiped $1,100 from his bank account. He was creditless while the bank issued a new credit and debit card. He had to switch back to using cash and checks, admitting, "It was a big hassle."

It's likely to get worse. Consumers are now receiving emails, phone calls and letters offering credit checks, warnings, help and advice. But there is no fool-proof way for them to determine whether they are legitimate or a scam.

Inabnit wisely trashed them.

"They could have been the people who did the cyber attack and they were using my information another way and take everything," he said.

The advice from security experts is pretty simple. If you didn't request the help, Thompson advises, "Don't touch them and don't respond. Go directly to your bank or financial institution and deal with them directly."

Otherwise, you risk dealing with cyber crook.

Here's how to protect yourself:

  • Check credit card and bank statements frequently, perhaps each day.
  • Replace your credit cards. Ask the bank to issue new ones. Don't wait to become a victim.
  • Get a credit report and monitor it so if someone uses your identity to take out loans or credit cards you will know about it.
  • If you're looking at a seemingly helpful email, but didn't request the information, don't click on anything, don't fill out anything, don't reply. Call, email or go the bank yourself and sort it out.

Inabnit received a text from his bank alerting him to the cyber theft. He knew it was real, because the message asked him to come into a bank branch and fix it.