November 10, 2011, 11:37 AM

Consumer information tops criminals’ holiday lists

Retailer databases could be vulnerable to attacks.

Lead Photo

As the countdown to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, advances, criminals are eyeing the bounty of consumer information, such as credit card numbers, birth dates and addresses, they could steal, says ID Watchdog Inc., an identity monitoring service.

ID Watchdog estimates that 212 million shoppers will brave the roads and web on Black Friday. Of those, as many as 154.7 million shoppers could be at risk based on a recent report sponsored by data security firm WhiteHat Security. The report suggested as much as 70% of data maintained by retailers is vulnerable to information leakage, a weakness in software that allows criminals to extract sensitive data, such as consumers’ birth dates, credit card numbers, and billing and shipping addresses.

Consumers could find themselves between criminals and retailers as each tries to counter the other, ID Watchdog say. “Criminals are smarter and able to outwit, outlast and outplay the organizations they are attacking,” says an ID Watchdog spokeswoman.

Consumers need to be aware of this to better protect their personal information, she says. As consumers sign up for loyalty programs, for example, they provide personal information that goes into a retailer’s database. Because many retailers may place online and in-store customer information into the same database, the risk faced by each type of consumer is the same, ID Watchdog says.

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