recommended reading

In the Next Big Data Breach, Crowdsourcing Could Find the Culprits

Last years data breach at Target has resulted in hackers acquiring the home numbers, addresses and credit card numbers of tens of millions of U.S. customers.

Last years data breach at Target has resulted in hackers acquiring the home numbers, addresses and credit card numbers of tens of millions of U.S. customers. // Damian Dovarganes/AP File Photo

Following last year’s theft of credit card data from the retailer Target and this year’s discovery of the Heartbleed bug, it’s probably an understatement to say that the credit-card industry has a problem with data breaches.

In fact, since 2010, at least 62 million credit card records in the US have been stolen via data breaches, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITFC), a non-profit consumer advocacy group. And this problem is not going to go away, at least not without some big reforms to US credit card standards.

For individual customers, protecting oneself can be a challenge. Even though US companies (like Target) have state requirements to report data breaches to consumers, the time frames in which they are required to do so are typically vague.“Most laws use wishy-washy words like ‘reasonable’ time frame,” Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, told CNBC following the incident at Target.

Companies sometimes prefer to wait until they have confirmed and addressed the breach before breaking the bad news to customers, she said, and law enforcement officials may request delays in notification as they conduct investigations. 

Without timely alerts from companies about breaches, customers are left to rely on their banks or credit card company’s monitoring of unusual activity, or their own daily monitoring of accounts. But it’s far from a foolproof system. That’s the problem that Yaron Samid, the CEO of a personal finance application called Billguard, says his app seeks to address. His company’s app is built around algorithms that notify cardholders of suspicious charges and trace breaches back to their source.

When you log into the app, it gives you a list of transactions, and asks you to confirm if they are legit. You swipe in one direction to verify the charge, or the other to identify the charge as fraudulent. If the charge is problematic, the app lists the number of the bank or credit card issuer, so you can report the problem and make sure it’s addressed. Meanwhile, it takes your swipe data, pools it with other peoples’ fraudulent charge data, and uses an algorithm to sleuth out which company is to blame for the breach.

Banks and credit card companies use similar algorithms to detect fraudulent charges, but their data is typically only collected and shared internally. Billguard, on the other hand, sends a message notifying every other user who shopped at the compromised merchant. “Our number one goal is to bring people real-time transparency,” Samid says. “Because they don’t get it from their banks. Not from merchants, either.”

All this data on how and where people spend their money is potentially lucrative, but Samid says his company has no plan to sell the information as marketing analytics. Instead, he says, he’ll be charging a fee to merchants to review their breach record and award them a certification based on their trustworthiness. However, this is still a few months down the road, so the details aren’t nailed down yet.

For now, the app is available for free on the iPhone, and yesterday Billguard went live on the Google Play store for use on Androids.

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.