Security Experts:

VISA, MasterCard Warn of Potentially Massive Breach at Processor

Update: Global Payments, Inc. Confirms Security Breach.

Reports are spreading this morning about a potential breach that has occurred a U.S.-based credit card processor, and that VISA and MasterCard have started to alert banks nationwide.

The reports were sparked by a post by security blogger Brian Krebs early Friday morning. 

According to Krebs, “Sources in the financial sector are calling the breach ‘massive,’ and say it may involve more than 10 million compromised card numbers.”

Krebs also pointed to the fact that PSCU, a provider of traditional and online financial services for credit unions, alerted hundreds of customer organizations that may have issued cards impacted by the breach.

If the reports are accurate, the breach could be large, though at 10 million records just a fraction of the size of the massive Heartland breach in 2008 that exposed more than 100 million credit and debit cards. In the case of Heartland, hackers successfully penetrated into the company’s network after reportedly spending weeks gathering information and intelligence on the card processor’s systems.

A MasterCard spokesperson told SecurityWeek that they were currently investigating the incident. "MasterCard is currently investigating a potential account data compromise event of a U.S.-based entity and, as a result, we have alerted payment card issuers regarding certain MasterCard accounts that are potentially at risk," the spokesperson wrote in an email to SecurityWeek.

"Law enforcement has been notified of this matter and the incident is currently the subject of an ongoing forensic review by an independent data security organization. It is important to note that MasterCard's own systems have not been compromised in any manner."

According a statement provided to SecurityWeek by a Visa spokesperson, “Visa Inc. is aware of a potential data compromise incident at a third party entity affecting card account information from all major card brands. There has been no breach of Visa systems, including its core processing network VisaNet."

“Visa has provided payment card issuers with the affected account numbers so they can take steps to protect consumers through independent fraud monitoring and, if needed, reissuing cards," the company added.

"While the scope and details of the attack are not yet known, it shows that three years after the Heartland Payment Systems breach of 130 million credit card numbers, credit card data is still vulnerable," said Neil Roiter, research director at Corero Network Security. "The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is highly prescriptive in nature, but simply complying does not ensure credit card security. Companies that rely on PCI DSS to solely dictate their security measures will continue to remain vulnerable to attack."

Update: Global Payments, Inc. Confirms Security Breach.

[Updated with MasterCard Statement 10:14AM ET]

[Updated with VISA Statement 11:50AM ET]

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.