Teeth and personal data are alike: When they’re breached, it’s painful
By Roger Chesley
© August 19, 2014
Is it safe?
Film aficionados know the line is from “Marathon Man,” and it’s among the American Film Institute’s 100 top movie quotes of all time. The 1976 thriller leaves you horrified at the mere thought of visiting the dentist.
Given the recent glut of data breaches at major retailers, “Is it safe?” could be asked just as easily about our personal information, credit card numbers and bank accounts. The answers might alarm you.
My discomfort follows The Pilot’s weekend report that Farm Fresh’s 43 stores are part of a data breach at Supervalu Inc., the supermarket chain’s parent company. The list, of course, includes the grocery that I regularly patronize in Chesapeake, according to an operator Monday at a special call center. (You can reach it at 855-731-6018.) The operator said he couldn’t verify whether individual information was taken.
Last week, Supervalu announced it suffered a “criminal intrusion into the portion of its computer network that processes payment card transactions” for some of its stores. The breach occurred between June 22 and July 17.
The company “has not determined that any such cardholder data was in fact stolen by the intruder,” Supervalu said in a statement, “and it has no evidence of any misuse of any such data, but is making this announcement out of an abundance of caution.”
It delayed notifying customers because it was working with law enforcement and a third-party forensics firm to figure out the scope of the breach. No surprise here: Supervalu’s CEO said in the statement that it’s safe to shop in the company’s stores.
My bicuspids are starting to ache.
Farm Fresh has 30 percent of the market share of grocery stores in Hampton Roads – No. 2 behind Food Lion, according to Food World magazine. The ranking doesn’t include stores such as Walmart or wholesale clubs.
The Boss loathes releasing any personal information. I figure it’s nearly impossible to keep that stuff secret, but I’m getting less cavalier because of the mounting reports of problems at retailers.
In recent months, security walls have been struck at Target, P.F. Chang’s, Neiman Marcus and thrift store operations of Goodwill Industries International Inc. Target’s CEO resigned several months after the breach at his company was disclosed.
On Monday, Community Health Systems said a cyberattack got information on more than 4 million patients from its computer network this year. The company runs three hospitals in Virginia, including Southampton Memorial Hospital in Franklin.
Is there anything consumers can do?
Yes, according to Heather Engel, vice president of Sera-Brynn, a cybersecurity company based in Suffolk.
First, use credit cards instead of debit cards because they offer more protection, Engel told me Monday. “With debit cards, thieves can clean out your bank accounts,” she said.
Read the consumer agreements that come with the cards. Yes, they’re boring and often convoluted, but they explain the limits of liability.
Next, “keep on top of your bank accounts,” Engel said. “Log in at least once a week” to online accounts to monitor activity and check for anything unusual.
Be cautious about giving up unique information. Lots of offers – from coupons to discounts – seek addresses, dates of birth and the like. Are those inducements really worth turning over personal details? Noted Engel: “If that information is compromised, now a thief has” it.
Further adaptation of microchip technology on U.S. credit cards also will help.
Am I being neurotic?
“You don’t have to freak out, but you do have to stay on top of things,” she advised. “You can’t swipe and forget.”
I won’t. I want to keep my data – and my teeth – safe.
Roger Chesley, 757-446-2329, firstname.lastname@example.org, pilotonline.com/chesley, www.facebook.com/RogerChesley
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