The list of major retailers that have been hacked keeps growing. But while tens of millions of people have seen their credit card numbers fall into the hands of hackers, online shoppers at those stores appear safe.
In recent breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and, most recently, Home Depot, the retailers said online customers were not affected. The hacks raise a curious question at a time when danger seems to lurk on every corner of the Internet: Is it actually safer to shop online than in person?
That may be true, but not because entering your credit card number on your home computer is more secure than swiping your card at the register, according to Nicholas Weaver, a senior researcher at the International Computer Science Institute.
It’s just easier for hackers to profit by stealing information linked to credit cards swiped in physical stores, he said. Such data can be used to make counterfeit cards and presents fewer obstacles for thieves than information stolen from online shoppers.
For hackers, data from physical cards “is significantly easier and therefore more profitable to use,” Weaver said.