It turns out the credit card processor everyone depends on isn’t so dependable.

 

Global Payments, who makes it possible for you to put everything from pizza to iPads on plastic, confirmed that hackers stole customer data from 1.5 million North American credit card accounts. And yes, that includes the credit cards in your wallet or purse: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover—you name it.

 

Global Payments maintains that while hackers were able to pluck credit card account numbers from their servers, they weren’t able to make off with cardholder names or social security numbers. Still, that leaves us with more questions than answers. Especially in light of VISA dropping Global Payments at least temporarily until it’s in compliance with industry security standards. In the world of electronic payments, that’s a big deal. If your information isn’t safe with Global Payments, then where is it safe?

 

Credit card providers are usually quick to remove fraudulent charges from cardholder accounts, but any kind of breach is cause for concern. And as we’ve seen with the International Monetary Fund and many other high profile data attacks, sometimes more information is compromised than we’re initially led to believe.

 

So what are we to do? If hackers are able to break into vital financial networks, can we protect ourselves?

 

Here’s what I suggest:

 

1. Be informed:
It’s harder to protect yourself if you don’t know what you’re defending yourself against. Join our nearly one million-strong community on Facebook so you’re up on the latest security threats that are most likely to affect you.

 

2. Check your statements—constantly:
It’s no longer enough to wait for your bill to arrive in the mail. All major credit and debit card providers provide online services that let you log in and check account activity to stop fraudulent charges that could tie up funds and maybe one day even hold you liable.

 

3. Protect your computers, laptops and mobile devices:
Federal laws in the US, UK and elsewhere guarantee that the cardholder has zero liability to the issuer, but one cannot predict what will happen if, for example, a customer is negligent or careless with his or her account data. Make sure you’ve got anti-malware installed on all your web-enabled machines and devices to help keep your login and other account data safe.

 

4. Be smart:
It boggles the mind how often hackers are able to trick users into handing over personal data through simple phishing and other attacks. If any financial institution reaches out to you requesting personal info, go straight to the source to make sure the request was a valid one.

 

5. Get identity theft protection:
I’m a big fan of locking down my credit info, which you can do by ordering a security freeze from each of the three credit bureaus Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian for just a few bucks. The downside is it can take a few days to temporarily lift the freeze if you’re looking to buy a car or open up a new credit card account. But since it keeps imposters from opening up fraudulent accounts in your name, the security freeze offers great peace of mind.

 

How will you protect yourself from attacks on our financial ecosystems? Let’s talk about it on Twitter or Facebook!