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No one cares who caused the data breaches — just fix it

Another week, another data breach.

This week’s victim is retailer Neiman Marcus (no midstate locations, by the way). The retailer announced Thursday that credit and debit card information for 1.1 million of its customers may have been compromised.
We’re yet not to the point where these data breach news items are just rolling off our back in ho-hum fashion. But after the staggering number of customers affected in the Target (70 million, and who knows if that number is going bigger) and Snapchat (4.6 million) security breaches, 1.1 million almost sounds like chump change.
So what makes this different from the other security breaches? Because now we have some good ol’ fashioned finger pointing as to who’s to blame for all data breaches in the retail sector, and one of those fingers is pointing at the banking industry.
The National Retail Federation sent a letter this week to both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate addressing the retail security breaches. In it, the federation threw the financial services industry right under the wheels of a 20-ton bus for keeping U.S. customers locked out of card security advances in other countries.
“For years, banks have continued to issue fraud-prone magnetic stripe cards to U.S. customers, putting sensitive financial information at risk while simultaneously touting the security benefits of next generation ‘PIN’ and ‘Chip’ card technology for customers in Europe and dozens of other markets,” the letter states.
And later:
“As long as bank cards continue to be issued with outdated and fraud-prone magnetic stripe (and signature) security, it is clear American card holders will remain largely unprotected.”
Ouch! The financial services industry then proceeded to roll over, take its licks and not retaliate … said no one who ever went up against a bank in any kind of fight.
The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) countered with “shock and outrage” over the federation’s letter to Washington, D.C.
“The (federation) should focus its attention on responding to the harm that security breaches at several retailers have done to consumers and their financial institutions rather than hurling false allegations blaming the banking industry for these retail breaches,” ICBA President and CEO Camden R. Fine said. “Retailers and their processors — not banks — are responsible for the systems in their stores that process payment cards.”
The American Bankers Association, in a previous letter this month to U.S. lawmakers, tried to straddle both sides of the line in addressing the current rift between the banking and retail industries: “In our view, it is a shared responsibility of all parties involved.”
Now we’re talking! The last thing we need is these two industries, two of the biggest in the world, jawing back and forth.
Too bad that ABA letter predated the letters from the National Retail Federation and the ICBA. But let’s all hope that original spirit of shared blame and working together is what wins out.

Michael Sadowski

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