I Shopped at Target, Now What?

So you shopped at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec.15, now what should you do? Here is some information that may help.

If your card information was compromised you are likely to notice small charges on your statement that show someone is testing out your card or targeted email scams. Be sure to look at your charges on your card and specifically for your debit card and make sure you change your PIN.

If you notice activity call your bank or credit card company and Target. They will report the activity to your credit card companies and call Target at (866) 852-8680.

I would recommend cancelling your card and requesting a new number.  In addition it will be necessary to continue to monitor your account for the next six months for fraud.

Q: I shopped at Target during that time. What should I do?

A: Check your credit card statements carefully. If you see suspicious charges, report the activity to your credit card companies and call Target at 866-852-8680. You can report cases of identity theft to law enforcement or the Federal Trade Commission.

You can get more information about identity theft on the FTC’s website at www.consumer.gov/idtheft, or by calling the FTC, at (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338).

Q: How did the breach occur?

A: Target isn’t saying how it happened. Industry experts note that companies such as Target spend millions of dollars each year on credit card security, making a theft of this magnitude particularly alarming.

Experts disagree about how the breach might have happened. Avivah Litan, a security analyst with Gartner Research, says given all the security, she believes the breach may have been an inside job.

But thefts of this size are too big to be the work of company employees, says Ken Stasiak, founder and CEO of Secure State, a Cleveland-based information security firm that investigates data breaches like this one. Stasiak says that such breaches are generally perpetrated by organized crime or an overseas, state-sponsored hacker group.

Stasiak’s theory is that the hackers were able to breach Target’s main information hub and then wrote a code that gave them access to the company’s point of sale system and all of its cash registers. That access allowed the hackers to capture the data from shoppers’ cards as they were swiped.
James Lyne, global head of security research for the computer security firm Sophos, says something clearly went wrong with Target’s security measures.

“Forty million cards stolen really shows a substantial security failure,” he says. “This shouldn’t have happened.”

Q: Who pays if there are fraudulent charges on my account?

A: The good news is in most cases consumers aren’t on the hook for fraudulent charges.
Credit card companies are often able to flag the charges before they go through and shutdown your card. If that doesn’t happen, the card issuer will generally strip charges you claim are fraudulent off your card immediately.

And since the fraud has been tied to Target, it’ll be the retailer that ultimately compensates the banks and credit card companies.

Q: How can I protect myself?

A: Like they say, cash is king. You can only lose what you’re carrying, though admittedly many people may not feel safe walking around with a wad of bills in their pocket.

As stated before, credit card companies don’t hold consumers liable for charges they don’t make. Usually the worst thing consumers have to deal with is the hassle of getting a new credit card.
And the paper trail generated through credit card transactions can often make it easier do things such as return items you’ve purchased, or keep track of work-related expenses.

It’s worth noting that while debit cards offer many of the same perks as credit cards, without the worry that you’ll spend more than what’s in your bank account, they often don’t come with the same kind fraud protections.

As a result, those card holders may have a tougher time getting their money back if their number is stolen.

Q: How much is this going to cost Target?

A: It’s too soon to tell. In addition to the fraud-related losses, banks may start charging Target a higher merchant discount rate, which is the amount retailers pay banks for providing debit and credit card services. While the percentage difference may be tiny, it could result in steep costs given the volume of transactions Target does, Litan says.

Litan added that the company could also face class action lawsuits from consumers, though most of them will be meritless, and fines from federal agencies. When combined, the costs of the breach could be so steep that they actually prompt Target to raise prices, she says.

“The real winner in this is Wal-Mart,” she says.

Q: Can the bad guys be caught?

A: Stasiak says that given the sophistication of this attack, there’s only about a 5 percent chance that the perpetrators will eventually be caught and prosecuted.

He notes that in cases like this, it’s hard to determine where the attack originated and given the large mass of information involved it’s not going to be found housed on someone’s home computer.

Q: How can future breaches be prevented?

A: Litan says an easy way to prevent fraud would be to eliminate the use of easily cloned magnetic strip cards and upgrade to the kind of microchip technology used in most other parts of the world.
But she says banks have pushed back against the idea, because the microchip cards cost significantly more than the magnetic strip version and changing over all the country’s ATMs could drive the total costs into the billions of dollars.

Lyne says it’s unclear if the use of microchip cards would have prevented the Target breach, since it’s unclear how it happened, but that it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Q: Why is the Secret Service investigating?

A: While it’s most famous for protecting the president, the Secret Service also is responsible for protecting the nation’s financial infrastructure and payment systems. As a result, it has broad jurisdiction over a wide variety of financial crimes. It isn’t uncommon for the agency to investigate major thefts involving credit card information.

China Explores the Moon

This is not really a tech story that this blog handles normally however tech news slows down during the holidays and I wanted no one to miss this story so I decided to write a little about it here.

This past Saturday, December 14, China became only the third nation (after the U.S. and Russia) to accomplish a soft-landing on the moon, which is an amazing task.

What Does This Mean for the U.S. Space Program?

If China is successful with their new space program and they decide to focus on Mars and landing on an asteroid it will probably kick off a new space race, this time between the United States and China as Sputnik did in 1957 between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Back to China’s Moon Mission

In order to move the moon probe into a gentle landing, the Chinese lander was equipped with state-of-the-art mini rockets, which allowed it to gently hover above the lunar surface.  This allowed it to avoid small boulders and large rocks that litter parts of its Sinus Iridum (Bay of Rainbows) landing site.


The successful landing occurred at 8:11 a.m. EST.

Chang’e 3 used its hovering jets to touch down softly on Saturday. [Image Source: News.cn]

Using its high-resolution imaging and hovering capabilities, the craft safely touched down in the Bay of Rainbows, a basalt sand/rock crater plane in the Lunar north.  After landing safely, the Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”) rover climbed off the Chang’e 3 spacecraft without issue on Saturday, snapping pictures.

Chang’e 3, post-landing. [Image Source: News.cn]
The Yutu rover stands roughly 5 feet and features a six-wheel independent bogie-style suspension, similar to the rovers that the NASA used to rove the moon in decades past. It has been nearly four decades since the U.S. and Russia last roamed the moon.

A picture of the offloaded rover is snapped by Chang’e 3 [Image Source: CCTV]


China’s first and second Lunar probes provided mankind with unprecedented map of the Lunar surface.  Over the next few months Yutu will add yet more insight, “tasting” the chemicals in Lunar rock and exploring the Lunar dirt/crust with ground-penetrating radar.


The lander is powered by a radioisotope heater, while the rover is powered by a solar panel.  Both will only operate by day to safeguard their sensitive electronics from the chilling northern Lunar night.

You can be assured that the United States Space Program will be watching this closely and we can all hope that we, as a nation will be exploring the stars again with a new inspired mission we can all collectively get excited about.

Target Customers Beware

Living in a digital world does not comes without it’s dangers and if you recently shopped at Target it just got a little scarier. Happy Holidays from the cybercriminals.

That is because credit and debit card information of many Target customers have apparently been stolen during the Black Friday weekend, according to reports. In fact this may be been continued for another two weeks after black Friday weekend.

The thieves got access to data stored on the magnetic stripe on the back of the credit and debit cards through card swiping devices that could have been tampered with at the retailer’s stores. This fact was reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

This is a real security problem because it is the data on the stripe which can be used to make counterfeit cards. If the thieves also intercepted PIN (personal identification number) data for debit transactions, they would have the ability to reproduce stolen debit cards and use them to withdraw cash from bank accounts through ATM’s.

Millions of cardholders could be vulnerable as a result of the breach that is believed to have affected about 40,000 card devices at store registers, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the incident. The breach extends to nearly all Target locations in the United States.

If you have shopped at any Target store from late November through today I would recommend that you cancel the card you used there and have a new one issued. Also double and triple check your account (you used) and your bank account if it was a debit card.

Surface Sales Surging This Season?

Here is some good holiday cheer for Microsoft. I have been a proud user of first the Microsoft Surface then the Surface Pro 2 tablet. This mobile device is much more then a tablet and performs in many ways like a really good laptop. I have been able to travel several times exclusively with this device which is really saying something because I often need to provide remote support, work on webpage design in addition to all of the other work related tasks many of us do when away from the office. The Surface can also compete in many ways with the iPad as well in respect to consumer tasks, although it is in this area where Microsoft is still working to catch up.

Now it appears that Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 tablets are selling very well. Many retailers are sold out with just over a week to go until Christmas. It’s unclear whether Microsoft built smaller quantities of tablets and might be manufacturing the sellouts, or whether the company is actually enjoying a hot streak with Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 sales. I tend to believe it is selling well, simply because I believe it is a very good solution for those who want a good mobile solution that performs well for both work and home.

Either model is listed as “sold out” on Microsoft’s online store, no matter which configuration buyers try to purchase. The same goes for Walmart’s online store and Best Buy’s retail stores – interestingly though, Best Buy’s website shows the devices as available. According to a Best Buy salesperson in New York City, the new Surface tablet is “extremely popular” with shoppers, although no actual sales numbers were provided by the stores. Amazon, on the other hand, still has Surface Pro 2 and Surface 2 units for sale, although “stock is limited”.

Interestingly, Microsoft is not willing to reveal sales numbers for its new Surface tablets. “With regards to specific inventory levels or sales numbers we don’t comment on those specific figures,”

Microsoft Surface senior manager Ben Reed recently stated, “I would say that it’s our goal to get these two tablets into as many people’s hands as possible, and we’re actively working with manufacturing teams and retail partners to replenish stock where it’s been sold out as soon as possible.”

Shopping with HTTPS

Being that it is the holiday season and if you are reading this fine tech blog you have no doubt shopped online, and chances are you have probably noticed, or been told to look for, certain indicators that you have a secureWeb connection.

For many years, the primary indicator was a padlock at the bottom of your browser screen. Now, the padlock is likely to be found in the address bar up top. Sometimes the address bar itself will turn a different color (usually green) when you enter a secure website.

The “http” prefix on the website, if it’s visible, will change to “https” The “s” stands for “secure.”

Learning to read these browser indicators is an important way to avoid becoming a victim of cybercriminals.

What is HTTPS Anyway?

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (https) is a communications protocol for secure communication over a computer network, with wide adoption on the Internet. This security level is the result of layering the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) on top of the SSL/TLS protocol, which adds the security capabilities of SSL/TLS to standard HTTP communications.

If you do not see that a site is using the HTTPS protocol always avoid providing any personal or financial information.

FAA Looks to Expand New Cell Phone Use Policy

I have written about this story several times now and one final twist is here. I never accepted that mobile devices could impact airplanes in any meaningful technical way and I was thrilled to see that the FAA finally lifted that unnecessary restriction from passengers (on takeoff and landing). On a recent trip by air it was awesome to have US Airways simply direct everyone to switch their mobile devices to “airplane” mode for takeoff and again on approach for landing. The only restrictions at this point were the use of laptops (over 5lbs) which needed to be put away.

However it seems many are pushing for the use of “cell phone” while in flight. Now here – technology issues aside I believe that this should remain restricted. Airplanes are crowded places and the aggravation this will cause to those around someone carrying on a conversation (by phone) while in flight will more then likely lead to confrontations by frustrated passengers.

Regardless of my opinion here, the Federal Communications Commission is actually proposing a new rule, permitting cellphones in the air. Unsurprisingly, many, just like me are unhappy about the prospect of sitting next to a loud yapper for hours. However, help could be at hand, in the form of the Department Of Transportation. It may prohibit voice calls, for being unfair to consumers. I will stay on top of this ongoing story and keep you, my dedicated readers up to date. What do you think? Should we be allowed to talk on the cellphone while in flight?

8Bit Star Trek Returns on the iPAD

I do not normally write about video games here but in the case of the new IPAD app (game) I will make an exception just because I look forward to checking it out.

n this new IPAD game from Xcube Games and YesGnome a temporal rift has caused old foes and surprising new allies to find their way into an unexplored region of space. You are directed to build your ship, choose your crew, and explore an 8-bit galaxy like no one has before.

Set within the original Star Trek universe, players will apparently encounter familiar characters and locations from Star Trek™: The Original Series and Star Trek™: The Next Generation, as well as all new crew members, aliens, and mysterious planets to explore. The game also features narration by the one and only George Takei, the original music from the series, and a user interface based on the iconic LCARS (Library Computer Access/Retrieval System) system.

A True Tablet/Laptop Hybrid Arrives

With Christmas fast approaching I wanted to write one more time before the end of the year about Microsoft Surface line of tablets. This is truly the first affordable and usable tablet/laptop hybrid available today.

There are two distinct versions here so be aware of the differences before you decide to purchase one.

First there is the Surface RT (gen 1) or Surface 2 (gen 2). This version does not run Windows Pro and therefore you can not run native Windows applications and you are restricted to the Windows Store for your applications. However this one does come with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook pre-installed. If you primarily only use your tablet for Microsoft Office services, email and internet this one can be found for under $300 (RT) and $449 (Surface 2).

The more powerful (and expansive) version is the Surface Pro (gen 1) and Surface Pro 2 (gen 2). Here you get everything that comes with the RT or Surface 2 but because it is running full Windows 8.1 you can run any native Windows application. This one starts at $899.

For me I have the Surface Pro 2 and during my recent vacation away from the office I was able to travel with this exclusively with no need to also drag along a laptop. This is a big deal to me because I often have to work on the road, connect in to various workstations and servers to provide remote support. I was called upon to do this several times this past trip and the Surface Pro 2 performed admirably. What a sense of freedom it was to only have to bring this small form factor tablet/PC with me!  I have never before found anything that could handle these tasks outside of a laptop. Because this also acts as a tablet you can get away with leaving your iPAD behind as well.

The Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 can also be connected to a dock ($199) at your office which when connected to your local network can act as an office PC. When you work day is done you simply disconnect from the dock and travel how with your tablet/PC.

The dock has plenty of USB ports, video/audio out, LAN and is self powered.
The Surface sits very nice in the dock and connects by pushing the 2 sides in.
Once connected you can use your Surface on your local network.
With the dock you can of course use a large monitor, keyboard, mouse and external speakers. This is a great setup for your office and allows you to truly have a travelling office.
If someone is looking for a good laptop/tablet hybrid this is what I currently recommend