The larger truth is that cyber criminals have penetrated nearly every company and are able to access your credit card information whenever they want. Many of these compromised companies are in the credit card business or have indirect access as auditors, overseers, credit rating or reporting agencies, and so on. For example, the HVAC company's trusted access led to Target's recent breach problems.
All this naturally brings us to the question: How much should you worry about using credit cards or doing online transactions?
Not much, other than being aware of the system's fragility. What I'm writing about has been true for nearly a decade. We've been living in this corrupted world for a while, and the financial industry, broken as it is, functions pretty well. When a breach gets noticed, people get new credit cards and free credit card monitoring. Yes, a small percentage of people are inconvenienced each year due to fraud, but society has apparently decided the percentage is acceptable, just as we've reconciled ourselves to a certain measure of crime in the real, physical world.
The good news is that banks and other holders of financial information are starting to take steps, albeit years late, to make financial crime more difficult to pull off. Banks and credit card companies have spent millions of dollars on systems that can recognize and preempt financial fraud. I get reader emails all the time describing how their first notification of stolen or abused financial information came from a bank, before the reader realized something was wrong. Years ago, most people made this discovery when a credit card or loan application was declined. That's progress.
Besides, what are your options? Try using cash only, and your life will be more disrupted than if you were a victim of cyber criminals. All of us simply have to live with the system as it is today. Despite the rampant breaches, it works -- mostly.
Ultimately, I believe that one big criminal event, caused by a coding error that opens a huge security hole, will expose the fragility of our financial system. The results will be catastrophic, and the financial industry will finally do something to reduce fraud significantly. Until then, we wait, and worrying beyond the usual vigilance is pointless.
This story, "The bad guys have your credit card info -- so what?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Keep up on the latest developments in network security and read more of Roger Grimes's Security Adviser blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.