The recent breach of Sony’s network exhibited an unsettling situation that any technological company can face in an age of digital proliferation.
From Facebook to iTunes to the PlayStation Network, millions of people around the world are finding it easier to pay for digital goods and services. A few clicks or presses of a button and you’ll instantly have that new Lady Gaga album or rad costume for your online gaming avatar.
With personal and financial information saved with the merchant networks, cyber criminals who infiltrate security defenses will be staring at a gold mine. The doors are opened to identity theft, fraudulent purchases, and other sinister activities.
These were the greatest concerns of the 77 million Sony customers who had their information compromised during a network attack in mid-April. Although the company downplayed the severity of the situation by stating that there was no evidence of credit card fraud, hackers could inflict plenty of financial damage to the victims with their personal information.
Because digital goods will continue to thrive, consumers take certain precautions to reduce the impact of a similar incident:
Credit Over Debit
A majority of the credit cards and debit cards on the market adheres to a zero percent liability policy for cardholders when fraud is reported. The cost of unauthorized purchases will eventually be refunded but debit card users will experience more inconvenience.
With a credit card, purchases are made with borrowed funds and the customer has time to pay of the balance. With a debit card, purchases are made with funds that are immediately transferred from the customer’s account to the merchant.
The debit card customer would encounter a tough predicament if cash was needed in the near term (e.g. rent or utility bills).
Disposable Account Numbers
Many credit card issuers offer the ability to generate temporary account numbers that is limited to a single merchant, to a specified purchase amount, and/or to a certain time frame.
Even if a merchant leaks this information, credit card account details remain safe.
Don’t Save Billing Info
Shopping for digital goods usually results in small and frequent purchases so many customers opt to keep their billing information saved with the merchant for the convenience factor. Additionally, it paves the path for new customers to become returning customers thanks to the expedited checkout speed.
By opting not to save billing information with the merchant, it reduces the chances that cyber attacks would leak your information. Should your account logins and passwords get stolen, crooks won’t be able to access this information by signing into your account.
Minimize Personal Info
Sony customers who didn’t make purchases for digital content still have reasons to be concerned if they provided only their personal information. Phishing scams, identity theft, and bank account theft are still possible.
If identifying information such as mailing addresses, birth dates, and phone numbers are not required, do not offer it.
Purchase Digital Store Cards
Head over to a drugstore or major retailer and digital store cards can be purchases for popular merchants. Credits for FarmVille, iTunes Store, PlayStation Network, and many others can be paid for with cash at these locations.
These cards will often eliminate the need to enter any billing information.
While there is no absolute fool-proof method of safeguarding personal and financial information on digital networks, one can take these steps to minimize the potential harm that can be done in the event such information is leaked.
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