Retail, food service industry top target of fraudsters

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The retail and food service industries are the top targets for attackers due to the troves of consumer data they collect – and the fact that their systems often are inadequately protected, a security firm has found.

On Tuesday, Trustwave released its “2013 Global Security Report,” which found that the retail industry, particularly the e-commerce transactions that merchants process, were the primary targets of cyber criminals in 2012, followed by the food-and-beverage industry.

Trustwave said the retail sector made up 45 percent of data breach investigations it conducted, marking a 15 percent increase from 2011. The food-and-beverage industry was responsible for 24 percent of incident investigations.

Christopher Pogue, director of digital forensics and incident response for SpiderLabs at Trustwave, told Tuesday that attackers find retail shops and restaurants easy pickings.

“E-commerce and food and beverage were vying for the number one spot in attacks, and have for several years,” Pogue said. “It's mainly because of the proliferation of data exchanged and [everyone] is using their credit cards.”

In addition, workers in the sector are often more focused on customer service than data security and assume they won't be the target of fraudsters, according to the report.

In many cases, these businesses rely on third-party providers for IT support, and these vendors are the ones that introduce the security vulnerabilities – commonly weak or reused passwords for remote access, improperly configured firewalls or unpatched software –  that lead to the breaches. In other cases, the merchants mistakenly believe these providers are responsible for certain security measures, which leads to them never being implemented.

Trustwave also highlighted in its "2012 Global Security Report" that attackers often target industries with franchise models because their networks are similarly set up, making the fraud of many victims formulaic.

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