Compliance Insight with David Schneier

Heartland: Where is the Outrage?

How is it that Heartland doesn't remain front and center in the mainstream media?

I made the mistake of popping open a browser today and loading my preferred news website, and it was sort of like the ultimate one-two punch that hit me with concussive force. One item described how Bernie Madoff was requesting he retain ownership of his penthouse condominium in Manhattan and $62 million of cash. The other item outlined how the Senate Banking Committee is seeking $500 billion to bolster the FDIC. And while both of these are tremendous stories and had me reeling both because of Madoff's audacity and the whopping amount needed to keep the FDIC flowing, it was still far removed from what our clients and their customers are dealing with.

Where was the coverage of Heartland?

Last week a friend of mine disappeared off of Facebook after briefly indulging and enjoying reconnecting with friends and family. I tracked her down via email to find out what had happened, and one of her underlying concerns about being part of the wildly popular social network was that her bank card had been compromised multiple times, and she just felt that the less of her that was out there in the public domain, the better. So she unplugged herself and disabled her account. She still has her money deposited in a bank, so she was obviously not so preoccupied by the problems with FDIC. But she was keyed into the threat out there to both her identity and her bank card data.

A few weeks earlier, another friend regaled me with tales about how their bank card had also been compromised where someone tried to buy a television 500 miles away in a place they've never visited. Fortunately, the controls in place worked for them, the charge was rejected and they were able to avoid any real loss or complications. But in the ensuing conversation I had with them, I'd made mention of Heartland, asking if it was related, and they had no idea what it was I was referring to. However, when the subject of Bernie Madoff surfaced, we had a healthy and entertaining exchange of ideas about how that whole thing happened. And yet for them it was just another story in the news not unlike an Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt gossip column item. But the violation regarding their bank card and the weight of its potentially devastating effect on their lives engendered no such light-hearted exchange; there was real pain and concern involved for them.

So how is it that the mainstream media has moved on so easily from a story and a situation that hits not so much close to home, but rather in the middle of the living room? I just conducted a search on my favorite news website looking up "Heartland" and I had to navigate half-way down the page to find anything relating to the actual breach.

My clients are all feeling the pain of time and resources exhausted by Heartland and related breaches. Literally none of them are connected to Madoff, and while they all have a stake in the FDIC remaining solvent (and its related counterpart in the NCUA world), it's not something that is impacting them today. How does that make any sense?

The answer, of course, is that it doesn't.

My primary concern is that until we consistently see headlines related to these breaches and related blurbs about how the Senate, Congress or White House are introducing plans to address this very real, very costly problem, there won't be a compelling reason to do so. As much as we'd like to believe that our politicians are driven by what's right and what matters, most the truth is that they tend to oil the squeaky wheels first. And how squeaky can credit card breaches be if they don't warrant the headlines?

PS - With all due respect to President Obama, Bernie Madoff has the audacity of greed. He should be allowed to keep one shirt, one pair of pants and one pair of shoes. The rest of anything he has should be sold off for whatever value it might have.

About the Author

David Schneier

David Schneier

Director of Professional Services

David Schneier is Director of Professional Services for Icons Inc., an information security consultancy focused on helping financial institutions meet regulatory compliance with respect to GLBA 501(b) and NCUA Part 748 A and B. He has over 20 years' experience in Information Technology, including application development, infrastructure management, software quality assurance and IT audit and compliance.

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