Customers, we have a little problem

Warnings cascaded from a host of consumer companies on Monday alerting their customers to a third-party data breach that compromised names and e-mail addresses. While the companies said no sensitive details were gleaned from the leak, the matter points to an issue that may never be completely cured. E-mail marketing provider Epsilon Data Management LLC said last Friday it detected an unauthorized access of its system which left “a subset” of its customer information open to perusal. The company on Monday defined this subset as about two percent of its total clients. Epsilon said it provides service to more than 2,500 companies including seven of the Fortune 10.

Given that Epsilon said it annually sends more than 40 billion e-mails on behalf of such clients, that two percent does not seem so small after all.

Affected companies such as Target Corp., Citigroup Inc. and HSN Inc. warned their customers to not make it easier for bad guys that come phishing for more details. But have we already made it too easy for black hats to disrupt the flow of e-commerce?

Using a third-party provider that specializes in electronic communications can be more efficient for companies that want to focus on their core operations. It also consolidates data from millions of customers into a few nodes that will continue to be targeted.

Though e-mail is ubiquitous, it is rather passé. Data used by mobile apps for banking, e-tailing and e-ticketing is arguably far more precious. The breach at Epsilon is worth watching along with the efforts  to prevent future attacks. However, we should remain vigilant for criminals that want to siphon information from the expanding mobile stream. That is the digital battleground of now.

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About Joao-Pierre S. Ruth
New York tech correspondent for Xconomy, tech writer for Investor Uprising, and aspiring urban fantasy writer. I also make brownies and crème brulee.

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