Credit Card Theft Inspires Magnetic Counter-Measures

Law enforcement officials and major retailers cheered the recent indictment of Florida resident Albert Gonzalez as a major blow against credit card fraud. Investigators allege that Gonzalez and his accomplices used sophisticated techniques to ferret out tens of millions of credit card records from corporate payment servers over the past decade. Typically, stolen credit card data winds up in the hands of criminals who undertake a variety of criminal schemes, such as:

  • Forging the magnetic strips of credit cards, enabling criminals to make large purchases at premium retail stores.
  • Purchasing retail gift cards at grocery stores or pharmacies, which can then be sold for pennies on the dollar.

Banks, payment platform vendors, and merchants have teamed up to prevent similar security breaches by improving data center security and by experimenting with more secure credit card technology. One proposed enhancement involves using a magnetic strip's inherent "fingerprint" as a theft deterrent. Thieves would be unable