Thursday, June 9, 2011

Citibank Card Data Hacked!! (but keep reading)

"In Latest Attack, Hackers Steal Citibank Card Data"
Kelvin Chan and Pallavi Gogoi AP Business Writers, AP, via Money, ABC News (June 9, 2011)

"About 200,000 Citibank credit card customers in North America have had their names, account numbers and email addresses stolen by hackers who broke into Citi's online account site.

"Citigroup Inc. said it discovered that account information for about 1 percent of its credit card customers had been viewed by hackers. Citi has more than 21 million credit card customers in North America, according to its 2010 annual report. The New York-based bank, which discovered the problem during routine monitoring, didn't say exactly how many accounts were breached. Citi said it was contacting those customers...."


The Lemming doesn't have a Citibank credit card, so the conventional wisdom that 'my end of the boat isn't sinking' might be applied to this hack attack.

Conventional wisdom and the Lemming aren't always on the same page, though, so let's look at this latest security SNAFU.

One percent - one out of each hundred - of Citibank's credit card customers isn't a huge fraction. Significant, yes: big, no. 200,000 people: that's a big number. This is, in the Lemming's opinion, a significant security problem for Citibank and it's credit card customers.

The Lemming's financial records aren't 'an open book,' like an American public official's. The Lemming likes it that way. On the other hand, the Lemming wouldn't be hurt if how much this household has in the bank, and what we spend of groceries, got into the public domain. Folks would find out that we're not in debt - much - and that we eat a remarkably healthy array of food. Which most of the Lemming's neighbors already know.

Living in a small central Minnesota town is great - but the Lemming doesn't have the sort of faceless anonymity so many folks seem to prize: "Privacy" is what they call it. And that's another topic. (January 8, 2011, May 31, 2010)

Citibank Card Data Theft: It Could Be Worse

Back to that AP/ABC News article:

"...The bank said hackers weren't able to gain access to social security numbers, birth dates, card expiration dates or card security codes. That kind of information often leads to identity theft, where cyber criminals empty out bank accounts and apply for multiple credit cards. That can debilitate the finances and credit of victims. Citi customers could still be vulnerable other problems. Details about their bank accounts and financial information linked to them could be acquired using the email information and account numbers hackers stole.

"The Citi data breach was the latest in a series of recent high-profile data attacks against a number of major firms...."
(AP, via ABC News)

The data breach at Citigroup could have been worse. It could have been better, too. Those 200,000-odd customers could still have their account information where it belonged.

Credit where credit is due, though - that news piece had the 'good news' angle at the start of paragraph three - pretty close to the top of the article. It a way, that's more reassuring than the article that starts with something like "200,000 Octocorp customers did not have their social security numbers stolen today."

And that isn't quite another topic.

News, Opinions, and the Lemming

The Lemming likes to read the news - not everybody does, which is fine with the Lemming. The Lemming doesn't memorize the sports section of the paper: not everybody has the same interests.

The Lemming does, though, wish that folks who look at a headline, or a 'Mayor Snooks Investigated for Tax Fraud' article would read the whole article.

And, particularly if the article was long on innuendo and short on specifics, see what other outlets were saying about Mayor Snooks. The mayor might be headed for prison - or the IRS might have "investigated" why the mayor hadn't initialed one of last year's personal income tax forms.

Does that sort of irresponsible journalism happen often? These days, not so much: in the Lemming's opinion. Partly, again in the Lemming's opinion, because surviving newspapers learned that 'The Masses' were nowhere near as ignorant and gullible as they were 'supposed' to be.

This isn't a good time to be an old-school, traditional, information gatekeeper. Princeton's WordNet defines a gatekeeper as "someone who controls access to something." I discussed information gatekeepers in another blog. (Another War-on-Terror Blog, (August 14, 2009))

Jumping to conclusions without finding out what the "crisis" was isn't limited to 'The Masses' or 'those people over there.'

Research, the Internet, and the Lemming

The Lemming knew a college professor who opined, publicly, about an appallingly irresponsible judge. Without finding out what the case was about, or what the judge had actually decided. The professor's problem may have been that the story's assumptions dropped neatly into one of his biases on a particular topic.

That time, the Lemming found out what the (apparently insane) ruling was actually about - in about ten minutes. Research, perhaps, was for undergraduates and student assistants.

The point is that, particularly when an article seems to support what the Lemming thinks 'ought to be,' the Lemming generally starts digging through other sources to see what's really happening. Sometimes the Lemming gets bad news - but that's better, in the Lemming's opinion, than basing an opinion on ersatz facts.

The Internet is a wonderful thing - and that is another topic.

Related posts:


Brigid said...

Hulk speak much? "The Lemming like to read the news"

Um. I think there's something missing: "The professor's problem was that what he'd read and heard: and the story's assumptions dropped neatly into one of his biases on a particular topic."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


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