Giant retailer Target made the wrong type of headlines during the 2013 holiday season. Hackers had stolen information on the credit-card accounts of 40 million customers who'd shopped at the retailer's stores. A recent report from CBS Minnesota claims that new technology might make such data breaches less common.
Smart cards on the way
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, use microchips and PINs, which makes them far more secure than the low-tech bank cards consumers in the United States 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.
The power of masking
Shoppers in the United States can already take advantage of masking technology. CBS Minnesota reports that masked cards generate temporary numbers whenever consumers use them to buy something online or at brick-and-mortar stores. This number disappears once the transaction is finished, making it pointless for hackers who manage to steal it.
Of course, after the Target fiasco, consumers have the right to wonder why safer smart cards aren't currently available in the United States. There's no easy answer. Many speculate that credit-card companies haven't yet upgraded to the new equipment necessary to make these high-tech cards work. And until they do? The smart cards won't arrive in the United States.