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When we speak about POS (Point of Sale) device, we generally refer to payment systems that are found in stores and that allow us to pay for services or goods using credit cards. The POS device has come a long way, from the 1883 cash register machine to a cutting-edge terminal that can process cards, record customer orders, manage inventory, and connect to different systems of the same network. Unfortunately, new threats and vulnerabilities will always come hand in hand with new functionality.

One of the most famous cases of cybercrime that happened in the retail industry is the 2013 Target hacking. In December 2013, a hacker gained access to Target’s POS systems and was able to steal over seventy million credit card numbers from customers. This major problem led to a loss of jobs and reputation on the part of the company, as it was later revealed that preventing the attack would have been possible. If they had used a high-quality anti-malware system, then the hacker’s code would have been ineffective. Finding an anti-malware solution is easy, especially in a day and age where everybody has access to review websites.

What is malware and how does it work?

For someone who is not a tech expert, understanding how malware works and why it can be so destructive can be very difficult. The term ‘malware’ refers to pieces of software designed to gain access to computer systems and networks and to damage or disrupt their normal functions. Malware is usually introduced illicitly on servers and computers and takes the form of software, script, active content, or executable code.

So, malware can cause serious collateral damage to vulnerable POS systems. This can include gaining access to customer’s personal details, bank accounts, card associations, insurance companies, etc. But when it comes to POS systems, the main goal of the hackers is to steal credit card data. Once they get ahold of this information, the hackers will create virtual credit cards and use them to purchase goods or transfer money.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make when managing customer data?

There are many mistakes that can be made by small business owners when it comes to protecting their customers’ user data. For example, storing it in the same location where the encryption information is stored is a very common mistake. This makes it very easy for hackers to access all the data that they need with a single swipe. A simple solution to this would be keeping the encryption data separate from the user data.

Another mistake is using a corporate network for sending security and system updates to all POS devices. This is a common practice that puts a lot of businesses at risk. It is extremely easy for hackers to gain access to computers, networks, and POS systems when corporate networks are not protected by professional security set-ups. For small businesses, a good solution is opting for multifactor authentication systems and to never run the POS systems on the public Wi-Fi network.

Is running old operating systems a security threat?

The short answer is yes. Old operating systems are vulnerable, mainly because security support has ended when the newer versions were released. In other words, the companies stopped updating the older systems once the new ones were launched. Sometimes, companies do release updates for old systems when they detect vulnerabilities that can be exploited. For instance, the critical

Therefore, it is very important to ensure that your sensitive data is protected by up-to-date security patches.

Why is it dangerous to use default passwords?

A lot of people will postpone changing the passwords provided by the manufacturers and they might think that these passwords are just as safe as any. After all, they are just a bunch of random letters and numbers that nobody could possibly guess. The truth is, however, that hackers can gain access to manufacturers’ lists of passwords and easily gain access to any POS system that is still using those passwords. So, the best thing to do as soon as the system is set up is to change the passwords. It can be a good idea to use password encryption software tools to protect sensitive data.

What is phishing and how can it affect POS systems?

Phishing is a hacking technique that uses emails in order to trick people to reveal sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, etc. and it can also be used by fraudsters to gain access to POS systems is phishing. In order to avoid this type of hacking, business managers should train all employees not to open suspicious emails.

It is important to remember that when hackers are able to access a POS network, huge amounts of sensitive data are being compromised. Therefore, it is extremely important for business managers to hire competent security specialists and to ensure that their systems are up-to-date.

This is an article written by guest author Erica Johnson. 

Erica brings a range of writing and editing skills to her readers, mainly in Tech and Finance verticles. Among other topics, she covers fields of financial insights, banking reviews, personal finance tips and tools, graphics, web development, and coding.


Your post is a little misleading about Target not using high-quality malware at the time of the breach.

Your post is extremely helpful. I will keep following. Thank you for sharing this information.

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