More Heartland Details Leak Out (And Some May Be Trying To Leak Back In)

Written by Evan Schuman
February 4th, 2009

Details surrounding the Heartland data breach continue to dribble out, with one respected payment systems newsletter reporting that the forensic investigators Heartland brought in were Cybertrust and Neohapsis.

Heartland had tried keeping those names confidential, an effort that was succeeding prior to the Wednesday, Feb. 4 issue of The Nilson Report. That newsletter also quoted from a MasterCard alert, which provided new details about what was taken and when.

“According to a MasterCard alert, this sniffer program stole card numbers and expiration dates from credit and debit cards processed by Heartland from May 14, 2008, through Aug. 19, 2008, as the information entered Heartland’s payment switch,” the Nilson story said. “Only an estimated 5 percent of the stolen card numbers also included names. The malware was likely deactivated when Heartland conducted regular system upgrades as part of its PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) compliance program, although it’s possible that the hackers shut it down to try and avoid being traced.”

In other Heartland news, it seems that officials there may be preparing to backtrack on some of the details they previously disclosed. Since Friday (Jan. 30), Heartland has been promising a written statement to clarify—and apparently back off from—some of the details they revealed in interviews. As of Wednesday (Feb. 4) night, no such statement had materialized, nor were Heartland officials willing to discuss what would be in the statement.


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Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

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