The Parking Industry is Hacked; I Thought Technology Was King!


The Parking Industry is Hacked; I Thought Technology Was King!

“Technology is king.”  We know that with the right technology, theft and error will go away and, yes, we will have a perfect industry. In fact, we are there today – no, wait!!
The headlines in early December, as I write this, seem to fly in the face of my first paragraph. The Largest Parking Company on the Planet has had a number of its garages “hacked” and who knows how many credit cards of their customers stolen.
The company says that the theft has been discovered and fixed, and they are working with banks and clearing houses to find out just whose cards were stolen.
I spoke to a couple of engineers about the problem, and they knew nothing about this actual theft, but they weren’t surprised.  What they told me was that this is not particularly difficult. It sort of works like this:
A bit of software is put into the system that lies in wait for a credit card transaction. When it sees one, it grabs the card and the associated information, and sends it to a website somewhere on Earth.
The transaction continues, and the theft of the information goes unnoticed.  The more clever the thieves, the longer it goes unnoticed.
The assumption in this case is that a cardholder noticed fraudulent charges on his bill and complained to his bank, which traced the card transactions back through the clearing house to a place where the card might have been stolen. In this case, it was a parking garage somewhere in the U.S.
Investigations were begun, and the breach was discovered. The “malware” was removed, passwords changed, security upgraded … and life goes on.
I’m told this type of hacking is difficult to see and difficult to stop. Tons of card numbers on file weren’t stolen; cards were stolen as they were used. Sort of one at a time.
Software “geeks” tell me that their security is better than anyone else’s. Everyone tells me that it’s impossible to hack their system. We believe them at our peril. It’s like saying no one on the planet is smarter than you are.
The Internet gives us wonderful information and tools to help our lives. But it also gives bad guys the ability to look at our systems, test our security, find a weakness and exploit it.
But in the end, the weaknesses are found, they are fixed, and then new ones are found, they are fixed … and life goes on.

P.S.: When I was in the military, I worked in a “classified installation.” Guard dogs, fences, badges, big guys with guns – all the good stuff. The security folks there understood the problem.
There were two phone systems – one internal, the other external. They were not connected in any way. All classified conversations took place on the internal phone. The external phones were unplugged when we weren’t talking.
Those super-spooks understood the problem. Do we?
Contact PT Editor John Van Horn at


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John Van Horn
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