Data Breaches: The New Pain In the Ass.

Earlier this week my bank sent me a new debit card. It arrived with a letter saying that they sent it because my card’s information may have been compromised due to a recent data breach. The letter didn’t say what the data breach was from. From what I’ve read in the news I don’t think I shopped at any of the stores that got hit recently, unless there was one that I missed or didn’t get made public. I might have bought a gift card from Home Depot within the last year. I’m not sure. But I figured that if my bank didn’t want to take any chances then I appreciated their prompt response.

It could also be that my bank sent out new cards to all of their customers without checking to see if they shopped at the business in question. When this bullshit happened with Target a while back I had to go to the bank but it may have just been because they didn’t get around to a mass mailing yet. Then again, when I spoke to the bank’s representative that time she acted like it was the hundredth request that day related to that specific breach. She got accustomed to drawing a little bull’s-eye in the upper corner of the form in order to making the process faster. Maybe they learned to set up a process in case it happened again.

The problem is that it did happen again. What makes it worse is that we’ve grown so used to these data breaches right now that I adopted such a nonchalant attitude about getting a new card and having to memorize a new PIN (I opted not to change it to my old one just in case). I figured that I had to run an errand anyway so I would just stop by an ATM in order to activate it. If this was ten years ago I would freak out and call the bank right away for some sort of reassurance, then I would call my parents for the same thing despite their lack of involvement and finally I would stay awake all night worrying about who got my personal information. Now such things are so commonplace that I just took the attitude of “alright, I’ll deal with it” and moved on.

Granted, we have safeguards in place and we’re learning to handle such situations. That’s great. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that these data breaches happening in the first place. Unfortunately, something like this was bound to happen; the infrastructure is there to enable people to abuse the freedoms of information technology in this manner. And there are always people who would do so. I’ve noticed that I haven’t seen politicians rally behind a “War on Hacking.” Maybe it’s because they finally realized their previous ideological “wars” were frivolous (i.e. “The War on Drugs,” “The War on Terror”). Maybe they’re scared of hackers (or somebody pointed out that there both malevolent and benign hackers). Or maybe “hacker” reflects a kind of activity that somebody is interested in doing, not a specific interest group. There is no endgame to this unless we shut down the Internet entirely.

I wouldn’t condone that. A lot of good has come out of the Information Age. We just have to learn to be careful. I don’t mean us consumers. There’s plenty of tips out there on how to protect yourself from cyber-theft. I mean that these large corporations that could be considered targets need to keep up with the latest means to guard against these breaches. One idea is to use a consulting firm that offers such services. A new concern arises that one such firm could employ hackers to cause data breaches that only they have the newest answer to fix the problem before anybody else. It’s only a hypothetical situation that probably shows my lack of understanding of how these things work but it’s a consideration nonetheless.

On top of it all I put aside time that I would normally set aside for working on my novel in order to run anti-virus and anti-malware programs and then change all of the passwords to all of my important online accounts. It may have only felt necessary but I did it. It took me two-and-a-half to three hours on Wednesday to run said software. Then it took about two hours on Thursday to change all of those passwords and in certain cases change my debit card information. I knew ahead of time that I would have to skip writing time in order to work on this because these days it’s just part of life. At least it gave me something to gripe about on my blog.


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