The new year is still new, and those on the front lines battling cybercrimes and the hackers who work from the shadows might be exhausted already.
For now, at least, tensions between the United States and Iran have been dialed down a bit, if only in terms of missiles and firepower. But there remains the specter that the battle might be joined on other fronts — the digital kind.
Headed into the new year, gas station and convenience store chain Wawa said it discovered a data breach in which thousands of customers’ debit and credit card information was stolen. According to reports, the company found malware on the servers that process payments on Dec. 10. Wawa said its team stopped the breach on Dec. 12, but the malicious software may have been collecting information since March 4 — and as many as 850 locations may have been affected.
And the month before, a data breach exposed the personal data of more than 1 million prepaid T-Mobile customers.
In a bit of more recent news, Landry’s Inc., the restaurant operator with brands such as Morton’s Steakhouse and Joe’s Crab Shack, has warned that customers who used credit cards at more than 60 of its locations may have been exposed. The breach was tied to point-of-sale (POS) malware.
It’s a veritable cross section of verticals, these hacker targets, and it does not bode well for the near or even longer term(s).
The wild card, now, is tied to geopolitics. In an interview with Karen Webster published earlier this week, Samuel S. Visner, director of the National Cybersecurity Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) — managed by nonprofit MITRE, in support of the NIST National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence — said there’s an overall lack of preparedness in the U.S. for a cyberwar. And in mulling what might come, he said Iran might consider attempts to take down part of a payment system, attack infrastructure or wipe data off computers. Against that backdrop, many western firms do not yet have the cybersecurity controls in place that they should ordinarily have.
The recent spate of incidents shows the continued vulnerabilities of malware at the POS, and phishing attacks. It seems that 2020 might be a long slog of a year, at least as measured on the digital warfare front.
Points Ubiquity? Delta Airlines is reportedly looking into letting customers pay for Lyft rides by using airline miles. The move would bolster a relationship between the two companies that has been in place since 2017.
Connected Devices: Smart tech in the home gets a nudge as Procter & Gamble offers up smart toothbrushes, fragrance diffusers and razors. The toothbrushes return real-time feedback on brushing habits and where more work is needed. You know you need the help.
India’s Tech Scene: Buoyant, to say the least. Tracxn estimates India’s tech startups nabbed $14.5 billion overall in 2019, up from a previous tally of $10.6 billion.
Mall Vacancies: U.S. shopping malls have seen the roster of empty shops hitting a 20-year high, per data from Reis Moody’s Analytics. It seems eCommerce is grabbing a growing share of the increased consumer spending that has marked the past several years.
Cryptos: The idea that cryptos will chip away at the central banking model may be losing steam, bit by bit. Qatar has banned the trading of cryptos. Separately, Chief Economist Gita Gopinath of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that it’s unlikely that digital currency — or a “synthetic hegemonic currency,” which is a digital basket of reserve currencies — will replace the dollar as the go-to conduit of commerce.
China Capital Crunch: There are reports that a “capital winter” is brewing in the country — defined as a slowdown in fund flows. Business information provider ITjuzi estimates that 336 Chinese startups shuttered after raising Rmb 17.4 billion ($2.5 billion) from investors. And seemingly no sector was spared: Among the companies to go dark were unicorns — companies valued at more than $1 billion.