Can tech make Target-type data breaches history?

Retailer target did not experience its best holiday shopping season ever. Hackers managed to acquire information on 40 million customers who used their credit cards at the retailer’s stores in November and December. The retailer now faces lawsuits and negative press. But a recent report from CBS Minnesota offers hope: According to the story, technology might soon make such credit-card hacks much less common.

Smart cards

What would help? CBS Minnesota points to smart cards, which are already popular throughout much of Europe. These cards, which store all of a consumer's accounts on one card, rely on microchips and PINs, leading them to be far more secure than the low-tech cards consumers in the United States currently use. Smart-card data breaches, simply put, hardly ever happen. Unfortunately, it might still be a few years before these high-tech cards arrive in the United States.

Who’s that masked card?

There is also what are called masked cards, which CBS Minnesota reports are already offered in the United States. Whenever consumers use one of these cards, it gives a temporary number that cashiers type in or that consumers would use while shopping online. The temporary number then disappears when a transaction is finished. This means hackers can't use it, even if they steal it.

Waiting for protection

Of course, smart cards might be ideal. It could take a few more years, though, for those to show up in the country. No one knows why smart cards aren’t here already. But CBS Minnesota’s story speculates that one of the reasons might be that credit-card companies haven’t upgraded to the modern technology that they would require.

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