Security Watch

By Wolfe, Daniel | American Banker, August 19, 2009 | Go to article overview

Security Watch


Wolfe, Daniel, American Banker


Byline: Daniel Wolfe

Serial Offender?

New Jersey prosecutors have estimated that the Heartland Payment Systems Inc. breach involved 130 million card accounts - and linked it to a man who is already awaiting trial for his alleged involvement with the massive breach at TJX Cos. Inc.

If convicted of all charges against him, the 28-year-old former Secret Service informant Albert Gonzalez would be held responsible for several of the biggest data breaches in recent years, Wired.com's "Threat Level" blog reported Monday.

Gonzalez was indicted last year for his alleged connection to the incidents at TJX, Dave & Buster's Inc. and several other retailers. According to Monday's indictment, which Wired.com has posted online, Gonzalez and two unnamed people living in or near Russia have also been charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud against five more companies, including Heartland, Hannaford Brothers Co. and 7-Eleven Inc.

The New Jersey indictment claims that, in addition to the Heartland breach that exposed about 130 million card accounts, another 4.2 million accounts were exposed in the Hannaford incident. It did not provide figures for the 7-Eleven breach or for two unidentified retailers also mentioned in the indictment.

"Threat Level" explained that Gonzalez became a Secret Service informant when he agreed to provide information after his 2003 arrest in connection with the "Shadowcrew" online card fraud ring. The information he provided as part of the Secret Service's "Operation Firewall" led to the arrest of 28 others. Gonzalez is in custody awaiting trial for the TJX and Dave & Buster's incidents.

Stephen Watt, a programmer who pleaded guilty to writing the program used to steal card data from some of the companies Gonzalez is accused of hacking, is to be sentenced this month, the article said.

Misused Data

Federal agencies that provide loans to people in some Pacific island nations are reporting the borrowers' foreign Social Security numbers to credit bureaus - creating financial difficulties for the U.S. taxpayers who share those numbers.

The issue affected Associated Press writer Holly Ramer, who described the situation in a Sunday article.

Not all the foreign numbers are perfect matches for U.S. Social Security numbers; some of the other nations do not use nine-digit numbers, the article said, but when they are reported to U.S. credit bureaus, an extra zero is typically added to the front.

This can create problems for people issued Social Security numbers in Maine and New Hampshire, where they begin with a double-zero.

Ramer discovered the problem when a collection agency called about an unpaid debt of $7,306 from a man in Micronesia. …

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