Why the debit card data breach should worry you

Several Indian financial institutions have, in the past few months, increasingly come under cyber attacks. News reports in the past few days say that, apart from the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), several banks including the State Bank of India (SBI) have seen their data security systems come under attack, compromising debit card data and other vital financial information. Here’s all that you may want to know.

When did this all begin?

Although no one seems to be certain about when the latest spate of cyber attacks actually began, a news report in Business Standard said on Thursday that at least three financial institutions including the BS) have come under cyber attacks in the past three months, compromising debit card data and other vital information.

Which institutions have been affected so far?

News reports say that apart from the BSE, several banks including SBI, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, YES Bank and Axis Bank have all been impacted. 

What do we know so far about the damage already done?

The Economic Times reported on Thursday that as many as 32 lakh debit cards may have been compromised, in what is turning out to be the biggest ever breach of financial data in India. The report said that the hack originated in the systems of Hitachi Payments Services, which provides ATM point of sale services. It said that the hackers stole funds using the financial information. The Business Standard report said that in some cases a malware blocks the system, which can then be accessed only after a ransom has been paid.

What are banks doing about it?

The Economic Times said that as many as 26 lakh cards on the Visa and Mastercard platforms, and 6 lakh cards on the RuPay platform may be replaced. SBI has said that it has blocked over 6 lakh cards. Axis Bank has reportedly already hired consultancy EY to probe the cyber attack. HDFC Bank has asked its customers to change their ATM PINs. The Payments Council of India has reportedly ordered a forensic audit of bank servers.  

But why should these attacks worry me if I have not been impacted?

As a VCCircle analysis earlier this week showed, more and more Indians are preferring to go cashless, be it through debit or credit cards, Internet banking or Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPIs) such as mobile wallets. Data show that almost 74 crore debit and credit cards are in circulation, of which more than 71 crore are debit cards. India also has just under 15 lakh point of sale terminals. So, even if your financial data has not been compromised till now, you remain potentially vulnerable to such hacks in future.

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