Bookseller Barnes & Noble announced today that 63 of its stores in 9 states have been found to have had their PIN pad devices tampered with. The list of affected stores went coast to coast: California (20), Connecticut (3), Florida (11), Illinois (7), Massachusetts (3), New Jersey (4), New York (10), Pennsylvania (2), and Rhode Island (3).
According to the B&N press release, there was only one compromised PIN pad per affected store. The compromised pads, the first of which was apparently discovered on the 14 September, according to the New York Times, were found to contain a “bug” that allowed for the capture of information from credit cards as well as debit cards and their PIN numbers. B&N stated that it has disconnected the PIN pads from all 700 stores nation-wide, and that “customers can securely shop with credit cards through the company's cash registers.”
According to press reports, B&N doesn’t know how many customers were affected, but is working with credit card companies and the banks to identify any possible credit card fraud that may have occurred. It is also telling customers who may have shopped at the 63 stores to change their debit card PIN numbers and check their credit card account statements carefully.
The New York Times report also stated that B&N didn’t immediately inform customers of the PIN pad hack because law enforcement told it not to do so while the incident was being investigated, and furthermore, that B&N didn’t have to inform customers until 24 December. That would have been a happy holiday present.
The Times story doesn’t say why B&N chose now to announce the incident, other than to imply that word of it was becoming public, and B&N wanted to get ahead of the story.
The sophistication and geographic span of the tampering is reminiscent of the Michaels Store PIN pad tampering discovered in May 2011, which affected 80 stores in 20 states, and last December's compromise of self-checkout terminals at 23 California-based Lucky Supermarket stores.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.