Get ready for Big Data heists

The theft of big data will be one of 2014’s recurring themes, so protect yourself, Bloomberg reports.

Already there has been the massive plastic card data theft in South Korea, affecting about 60 million cards; the Target Corp. credit card disaster involving up to 40 million customers; the hacking of 16 million German e-mail accounts; data security breaches at Nieman Marcus Inc. and Easton-Bell Sports Inc.; and a group of Russian hackers who compromised the computer systems of Western energy and defense companies, governments, and academic institutions. We’re still in January.

These security breaches were all different but had a common cause: negligence. Although the technology and techniques to protect data, or at least to make life more difficult for hackers, have been around for years, companies and their customers mostly assumed that data theft was something that happened to other people. They need to start getting wise.

The U.S. retail attacks are part of a recent trend, reported by the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, in which the hackers (or “adversaries,” as the company describes them) target point-of-sale devices in which physical credit cards are swiped. “As that swipe occurs, the magnetic track of the card is read into memory and encoded to be transmitted to the payment processing systems,” CrowdStrike explained in its 2013 report.

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