Bleak job market creating data thieves, says Visa chief

The dire world economy is one of the biggest threats to payment security, according to the chief enterprise risk officer for Visa.

Ellen Richey said at the Visa Security Summit in Washington, DC that it was common sense that a poor economy and bleak job market would increase the desperation and creativity of would-be data thieves.

She said: "Sure enough, security and law enforcement experts confirm that cyber attacks on consumers and businesses have intensified in recent months."

Although she said that Visa has made progress with the ongoing security battle, the reality was that the public perception of data security was shaped by the high profile examples of data being lost.

Richey had no sympathy for Heartland Payment Systems, which was taken off the PCI DSS compliant service provider list after its massive data breach last year.

She said that although Heartland was PCI validated, a lack of ongoing vigilance left the company vulnerable to attack.

She said: "Heartland will probably face fines and probationary terms proportionate to an event of this magnitude.

"While this situation is unfortunate, it does not make me question the tools we have at our disposal - in fact, it makes me resolved that we should all be redoubling our efforts to use every one of those tools effectively."

Richey said that identity theft incidents were increasing at a time when there was increasing pressures to cut costs, but said that data security cost cutting was short sighted and dangerous.

She continued: "But we may have to acknowledge that others in our organisations may not see things our way or feel that they have no choice."

In response, she called for a bigger presence from educators and other advocates of data security.

She said: "If we cannot convey the urgent need to maintain investments in payment security particularly in today's environment years of progress in building consumer trust could slip through our fingers."

Earlier in the week, Visa and the Merchant Risk Council joined McAfee's Cybercrime Fighting Initiative as advisory members.

A full transcript of the speech is available here.