I’ve got some very valuable gifts coming for you. Give me a couple of weeks, and I’ll deliver the first one to you, right here at WSII.
In fact, I have so many exciting things coming your way, I’m thinking about changing the name from Wall Street Insights & Indictments to Wall Street Insights & Profit Opportunities.
Because I’m always researching markets to find trading and investment opportunities, and because so many of you are so great and I owe you for your inspiration, I’m going to start gifting you with real-time trading and investing ideas, right here.
Not just “ideas,” but actual recommendations and instructions. Not every day, and not every week, but often enough.
For example, today I want to get into the outrageous breach of security that just happened with Target Corp. (NYSE:TGT). In the future, if I were writing about what I’m going to touch on today, I’d give you reasons to buy or sell Target, with suggested entry points and stop loss and profit target levels. I might have recommendations and trade parameter suggestions for getting into some cybersecurity plays or for shorting some likely “fallout” stocks (you’ll see what I mean).
In 2014, I’ll be giving you trades to get into if you want and telling you how to manage them too. In a perfect world, our trades will turn into investments, because every investment begins with a trade, and we’ll make lots of money and have fun doing it.
So, let me know if that’s something you want me to do and keep doing (I imagine it won’t hurt) and how I can best deliver it to you.
Okay, now let’s take aim at Target…
Last Thursday Target had to admit they had a problem. What they didn’t want to admit is that some 40 million people who shopped at their stores between November 27 and December 15 had a problem. A really big problem.
Somehow, someone hacked into Target’s inner security sanctum, where they could steal customers’ credit card and debit card numbers, their addresses, those digits that are printed on backs of cards as added security checks, and some PIN numbers.
All of their 1,800 stores were affected.
So what happened?
We may find out the truth or we may not; it’s a security thing, you know.
But what probably happened is that Target’s transaction aggregation servers were hacked. All the point of sale (POS) card readers store transaction data, which gets loaded onto the company’s servers. Someone likely hacked into those servers to get access to all that data.
Besides the horror show at Target, imagine 40 million card customers being forced to deal with daily withdrawal and spending limits right now or scrambling to cancel their cards – the ones they desperately need for their holiday shopping and everything else we use our cards for on a daily basis.
How much do we use our cards? According to Gary Taylor, executive director of the National Association of Convenience Stores, whose outfit tracks card-use data, 24% of our GDP is conducted through the use of credit and debit cards.
The magnetic strips on the back of our cards hold some personal data. Additionally, when you have to punch your PIN into a POS terminal, the terminal stores your PIN. Everything that goes into the POS terminal gets parked and stored on the transaction servers.
If you used a debit card at Target recently and punched in your PIN, there’s a chance a crook who buys the data (it’s selling on the Internet now for around $44 per card) can imprint a card (even a hotel guest card will do) with a magnetic strip with your data on it, go to an ATM, and, using your own PIN, withdraw hundreds of dollars from your account.
Target isn’t the first mega retailer to be hacked like this, and it won’t be the last.
Is this Target’s fault? Yes. Will it be fixed? Yes. Will it ever happen again? Yes.
The truth is, we live in a world where there is very little privacy any more. The price we are paying (and will continue to pay at ever-escalating costs to our basic freedoms) is the cost associated with modernization. It’s the cost of technological innovation.
There’s no going back. It’s even hard to “get off the grid” now. Not only is Big Brother watching us all, if you aren’t up to speed on what the NSA’s been up to, your head’s in the sand. We’re being watched and tracked and marked and profiled by Google and Facebook and Twitter and almost every outlet on the Internet, retailers and wholesalers and banks and boogiemen.
Where we’re headed is so frightening that most people don’t even care anymore. They just accept that they’re being watched, that it’s okay that merchants know more about their spending habits than they know themselves, that Internet eyeballs are following them, that the NSA is snooping on all of us.
I guess it makes a lot of people feel a lot safer.
Me, I’m saddened by this invasion. I will not pardon the intrusion! Whether it’s Target storing our very valuable data on a ledge where it can fall into the hands of crooks or whether it’s any of our national security services (forever embedded in America’s soil now as a result of the Patriot Act) watching us, listening to us, profiling us, we’re all prisoners now.
I want to be happy this holiday season. I want to be happy all the time. But I can’t be.
I’m mad and sick with sadness. The Shining City on the Hill is glowing from electrons transmitting our private lives onto a grid to be used for us, against us, for the sake of what?
So, what am I going to do about it? Not nothing, I’ll tell you that.
I’m going to work my butt off to make us a lot of money so we can spend it on buying back our freedoms and America’s greatness… one legislator at a time, if we have to.
P.S. I’m taking off Thursday to enjoy the holidays. I’ll be back with you on Monday.