Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Business

Experts offer little hope that Target hackers will be caught

NEW YORK — The hackers behind the recent Target data breach are likely a world away and nearly impossible to find.

That's the consensus among outside cybercrime experts as Target, the Secret Service and the FBI continue their investigation of the pre-Christmas data heist in which hackers stole about 40 million debit and credit card numbers, and personal information — including email addresses, phone numbers, names and home addresses — of an additional 70 million people.

In the aftermath of the breach, millions of Americans have been left to wonder what has become of their precious personal information. The information can be used in a variety of nefarious ways. Criminals can attempt to use the credit card numbers and place charges on the original owners' accounts, or they can use other pieces of personal information to steal people's identities and apply for new lines of credit.

In cases where such a massive amount of information is stolen, criminals generally divide the data into chunks and sell the parcels through online black markets, says Chester Wisniewski, senior security adviser for the computer security firm Sophos.

In many ways, those markets behave much like any legitimate marketplace ruled by the forces of supply and demand. Groups of higher-end cards are worth significantly more than those with lower credit limits, and so are cards tied to additional personal information, such as names, addresses and ZIP codes, which make them easier to use.

After thieves purchase the numbers, they can encode the data onto new, blank cards with an inexpensive, easy-to-use gadget. Or they can skip the card-writing process and simply use the card numbers online.

Crooks often have the option to buy cards last used in their area. That way, Wisniewski says, the cards attract less attention from the banks that issued them.

The underground markets where hackers sell data have a steady supply of card numbers on sale, and their locations are always moving as they try to elude law enforcement, says Daniel Ingevaldson, chief technology officer at Easy Solutions Inc., a firm that sells anti-fraud products and tracks the activity of online black markets. A big jump in inventory usually indicates there's been a breach of a major retailer.

While many of these online bazaars and forums are based in Russia and Eastern Europe, much of the chatter is in English and appears to have been written by Americans, Ingevaldson says.

The types of criminals who buy the card numbers run the gamut, ranging from purely online white-collar crooks to street gangs.

"In reality, card numbers can be bought by anybody with access to the forums and a few bitcoins (online currency) in their pocket," Ingevaldson says.

As for the original perpetrators of the Target attack, experts believe they'll be difficult to locate. Eastern Europe, Russia and former Soviet republics are a hotbed for that kind of activity, given the region's large population of well-educated computer science professionals and the short supply of legitimate employment prospects.

It's likely that the authors of the malicious software used in the Target breach are making a nice living just by selling copies of the code to other hackers and not doing any hacking themselves, Wisniewski says.

Comments
Federal Reserve boosts key interest rate for third time this year

Federal Reserve boosts key interest rate for third time this year

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve is raising its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year, signaling its confidence that the U.S. economy remains on solid footing 8˝ years after the end of the Great Recession. The Fed is lifting its short-...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pasco Business Digest for Dec. 15

Pasco Business Digest for Dec. 15

Business digestWho’s newsHOSPITAL APPOINTS ASSISTANT CHIEF NURSING OFFICER: Registered nurse Courtney Stephenson, board certified nurse executive advanced, was recently appointed assistant chief nursing officer at Medical Center of Trinity. Stephenso...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Hernando Vendors for Dec. 15

Vendors are needed for the following nonprofit events:• Vendors and volunteers are being sought for a National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day event from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 21 at Crescent Community Clinic, 5244 Commercial Way, Spring Hill. During t...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Tampa airport ranks No. 4 for most affordable parking rates

Tampa airport ranks No. 4 for most affordable parking rates

TAMPA — Holiday flight prices may be high, but parking rates at Tampa International Airport are a little more manageable. TIA has the fourth-cheapest parking rates in the country, a study by travel and expense app company TravelBank said. TIA, the st...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Hernando Business Digest for Dec. 15

EventsDISCOUNT OFFERED TO THOSE WHO DONATE TO HELP HOMELESS: In advance of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, BonWorth clothing store, 12987 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill, will offer a 10 percent discount on purchases to those who donate unwanted c...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Target aims to boost same-day delivery by acquiring Shipt

Target aims to boost same-day delivery by acquiring Shipt

NEW YORK — Target plans to boost its same-day delivery capability by paying $550 million for Shipt, its latest move to try to catch up with Amazon. Shipt delivers groceries to its members, who pay $99 a year. Target says it will add more products to...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Spirit Airlines names new president, CEO for 2019

Spirit Airlines names new president, CEO for 2019

Spirit Airlines, the South Florida-based budget airline, is gearing up for new leadership. Bob Fornaro, president and CEO since January 2016, will step down from his position in early 2019. He will be succeeded by Ted Christie, the airline’s current ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Three things to watch for at the Federal Reserve meeting today

Three things to watch for at the Federal Reserve meeting today

WASHINGTON — On the day when Janet Yellen will hold her final news conference as Federal Reserve chair, the Fed has left little doubt what it plans to do Wednesday: Raise its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year. The increase would be...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Picturing something different: St. Petersburg man finds second career as photographer

Picturing something different: St. Petersburg man finds second career as photographer

A chance meeting during a really tough time in Rossie Newson’s life resulted in him finding a talent he never knew he had. After leaving his job as an illustrator at the Tampa Bay Times in 2009, Newson devoted most of his time and energy to his fathe...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Michael Sadeghpour was just 18 when he did his first flip.Using money saved from a job and borrowed from his grandmother, he bought a foreclosed condo in north Pinellas County for $67,000. He did some inexpensive renovations and flipped it for $125,0...
Updated: 10 hours ago