How Do You Steal 130 Million Credit Card Numbers?

More

A Miami man and two Russian accomplices are being indicted for allegedly stealing 130 million credit card numbers, the largest identity theft in history. That's a lot of credit card numbers -- like, one for every housing unit in the United States. How did they do it?


The historic theft involved five corporate data hackings, between 2006 and 2008, including Heartland, Hannaford, 7-Eleven and two unnamed companies, according to Channel Web. US investigators say the team scanned lists of Fortune 500 companies and learned about their checkout counter machines (also known as point-of-sale systems). Then they would write specific codes to corrupt their data systems and launch a virus from computers in the United States and Europe to pull hundreds and thousands of credit card numbers, and sort through them using a "sniffer," which is basically a data analysis system that decodes big chunks of information.

So how much damage could these kind of hackings do? The group leader is already being prosecuted for stealing another 40 million credit card numbers from TJ Maxx and Marshall's retailers, in a plot that has allegedly cost the companies about $400 million, according to the Washington Post.

For those interested in reading about how companies like 7-11 and Heartland Payment Systems (Slogan: "The Highest Standards; The Most Trusted Transactions") PC World has some interesting thoughts here.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Ghost Trains of America

Can a band of locomotive experts save vintage railcars from ruin?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Video

How Is Social Media Changing Journalism?

How new platforms are transforming radio, TV, print, and digital

Video

The Place Where Silent Movies Sing

How an antique, wind-powered pipe organ brings films to life

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In