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Thousands of European cards blocked following payment processor breach

Stefan Tanase
Kaspersky Lab Expert
Posted December 19, 17:21  GMT
Tags: Electronic Payments, Data leaks, Credit Cards, VISA
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Several Eastern European banks have started notifying their customers in the beginning of last week that their cards have been blocked and will be replaced with new ones. Most of the banks did not give out any more details about what happened, and in many cases even failed to notify their customers prior to actually blocking their cards. Is it just another day in the payment processing business? Based on the rushed response from banks and the lack of information surrounding the case, I would say no.

It all started one week ago after the state-owned Romanian bank CEC Bank blocked ~17,000 cards in response to a security breach at one of VISA’s European payment processor.

The reaction of other banks followed soon. The Romanian branch of ING Bank also confirmed to have blocked compromised cards, but didn’t put out a number. They say they’ve only blocked a few cards, but are closely monitoring the situation.

A few days later, Serbian banks also started blocking thousands of cards for security reasons. Raiffeisen Bank, Komercijalna and Societe Generale confirm they have been informed by VISA about some of their customer’s cards being compromised. Very similar to what happened in Romania.

Rumors indicate the European branch of an electronic payment services provider, Euronet Worlwide, to be the source of this breach. This information has been going around Romanian business media (1, 2) – and though it hasn’t been confirmed officially, it would explain why customers from different banks in different countries were affected.

It’s very hard to assess the severity of this security breach, as the banks’ reaction to these events was very mixed. Some banks proceeded immediately to blocking and replacing all affected cads, while others decided to monitor the situation more closely.

Currently, it’s very hard to get a full picture of what is going on, but as it usually happens, these are unlikely to be isolated incidents. Actually, these stories could be just the tip of the iceberg. If you have recently received such a notification from your bank, we’d like to hear from you, especially if it’s outside Serbia and Romania.

Meanwhile, make sure to follow these 3 basic steps to make sure you don’t become a victim of credit card fraud:

  1. Check your statements as often as possible. Make sure all payments showing up are actually made by yourself. In case you suspect a fraudulent transaction, get in touch with your bank as soon as possible.
  2. Enable instant SMS notifications if your bank offers it. Some banks offer it for free, others charge for this option. No matter what, it’s worth it. You’ll be able to get instant reports of payments made with your cards.
  3. Make sure you keep most of your money in an account that has no card linked to it. Having to move money from an account to another on a weekly or monthly basis might seem annoying, but it can save you a great deal of pain in case your card gets compromised.

Last, but not least, we know it’s the holiday season and shopping is on everyone’s mind. So if you want to keep your money safe when doing online shopping, this insightful article we’ve put together is for you: Online shopping made safe and convenient.


6 comments

Stefan Tanase

2011 Dec 20, 02:52
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Thanks for the link!

Dear Napoji, thank you for getting in touch and sharing that news report with us.

It seems there are already at least 3 countries involved: Romania, Slovenia and Hungary.

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