|By Hadley Malcolm, USA TODAY|
After a spate of data breaches in the past year heightened consumers' fear of personal information being stolen and led retailers to beef up security, shoppers may not be that much safer this holiday season.
Highly anticipated chip card technology that helps make in-store transactions nearly impossible to counterfeit still isn't in most stores and won't be widely available until next year. Breaches in the past year at stores including Target, Kmart, Home Depot and
In the wake of breaches, companies pledged to speed up issuance of chip cards and adopting the readers required to process the transactions. But
** Target, whose breach affected 40 million cards and up to an additional 70 million customer accounts, now has chip card terminals in all stores. But they won't be upgraded to the software that allows them to accept chip card transactions until next year. Target-branded credit and debit cards will be reissued as EMV cards in 2015. EMV stands for Europay,
** Home Depot discovered a breach in September that compromised 56 million cards and 53 million e-mail addresses. Stores have chip card terminals but won't have the software to accept chip cards until 2015.
Banks are still primarily issuing chip cards to those whose cards were lost, stolen or expired, says
But there's still a question of whether consumers care about security. While shoppers may worry about stolen information, that fear may not affect purchasing decisions. A
"Part of the world seems to be a little bit ho-hum every time there's a new (breach)," says
He's had credit card information compromised multiple times. "It's not fun, but in today's age, I think it's almost turning into a norm now," he says. "Everybody's getting something stolen. It's not stopping me from going and shopping."
In the meantime, security experts stress that there are other ways of mitigating fraud besides relying on EMV technology, and that EMV shouldn't be viewed as a sweeping solution.
"Certainly there's a recognition that this is something that requires a lot more attention than has been placed on it in the past," he says.
Home Depot was already boosting security when its breach was discovered, though it sped up the rollout of an enhanced encryption technique that scrambles card data and keeps it encrypted.
The process assigns a different account number, or token, to the debit and credit cards in someone's mobile wallet or online shopping account instead of the original card number. Apple Pay also relies on tokenization.
"It's a layering effect," Balfany says. "Yes, EMV and chip is terrific also. But that doesn't mean we're going to stop any of these other technologies we've got integrated."
While retailers may be more prepared, it's the busiest shopping time of the year, when more information is ripe for the taking and less likelihood of breaches noticed, Sadowski says.
Yet another retailer's system being hacked is likely inevitable.
"I would not be surprised if we still saw a significant breach over this holiday period for an organization that hasn't taken these steps," says
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