Global Payments says fewer than 1.5M cards affected in data theft

Visa and MasterCard have alerted banks about the breach, according to reports

Payments processing services company, Global Payments said late Sunday that information on up to 1.5 million card numbers may have been "exported" as a result of an unauthorized access into its processing system.

Visa and MasterCard are alerting banks across the country about a recent major breach that could involve more than 10 million compromised card numbers, security news writer Brian Krebs wrote on his blog on Friday.

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Krebs did not name the payment processor. However later on Friday, Global Payments said the company determined in early March that card data may have been accessed.

The Atlanta company said Sunday it believes that the affected portion of its processing system is confined to North America, and that Track 2 card data may have been stolen. The American Bankers Association developed the format for track 2 data on a magnetic card, which usually contains account number, expiry date of card, and sometimes discretionary data.

Cardholder names, addresses and social security numbers were not obtained by the hackers, Global Payments said. "Based on the forensic analysis to date, network monitoring and additional security measures, the company believes that this incident is contained," it added.

The company said it was open for business and continues to process transactions for all of the card brands. Visa has removed Global Payments from its list of "compliant service providers," according to reports.

A Visa spokesman said on Monday that based on Global Payments' reported unauthorized access, Visa removed the company from its registry of PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) validated service providers. As is its normal process, Visa has asked Global Payments to revalidate its PCI DSS compliance, he added. Global Payments did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Visa's action.

PCI DSS has proven to be a highly effective foundation of minimum security standards when fully, correctly and consistently implemented across all systems handling cardholder data, the Visa spokesman said.

Visa said Friday that there was no breach of Visa systems, including its core processing network VisaNet. It had provided payment card issuers with the affected account numbers from the Global Payments' breach so they can take steps to protect consumers through independent fraud monitoring and, if needed, reissuing cards, it said.

Every business that handles payment card information is expected to protect the security and privacy of their customers' financial information by adhering to the highest data protection standards, Visa said in a statement.

MasterCard said on Friday that it was investigating a potential account data compromise, but its own systems were not affected in any way.

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