Next Big Futures article Hackers have stolen more than a billion credit card numbers from more than 5 million customers in a massive data breach, the biggest ever recorded by cybercriminals, and are now using the information to blackmail the victims, according to a new report.
According to the findings of the Symantec cybersecurity research firm, more than two million credit card and debit card numbers of about 6 million people have been compromised in the attack that began on March 5.
Symantec researchers said they have not yet identified the hackers behind the breach, which occurred after they successfully stole the credit card information of customers who used debit and credit cards.
Symantech said the attackers were able to steal data from the compromised card numbers, including name, billing and expiration dates, and then use that information to make fraudulent purchases on a wide range of websites, including Target, Home Depot, and others.
The breach also included a database containing customer information, such as name, mailing address, credit card number and other personal information, the company said.
In total, about 2.2 billion credit and debit cards were stolen in the breach.
The company said it expects to have the credit and fraud data from all affected customers back online by April 15.
Symantsec’s report says that the hackers gained access to the compromised cards after they used the stolen data to make unauthorized purchases.
The thieves also used the data to create fake bank accounts that they used to make payments for credit card bills and other purchases, Symantesec said.
Symptoms of the data breach were first noticed by the US Justice Department in January, but no charges have been filed, and SymantEC said it is reviewing the data.
In addition to the stolen card data, the attackers used the compromised credit cards to create counterfeit debit cards that were also used to purchase goods and services.
The fake debit cards included names and credit card expiration dates for some of the victims.
Symanticech researchers say the attackers stole more than $150 million from the victims’ accounts in total.
The researchers say it is possible that some of those funds were spent on counterfeit goods and some were used to fund other attacks.
The data breaches are the latest in a series of large breaches affecting banks, retailers, credit-card companies, health care and other industries.
The latest data breach comes as banks are scrambling to recover stolen data from accounts belonging to victims of a massive cyberattack last year, which impacted more than half a million people.
The bank that was the first to disclose the hack in February, JPMorgan Chase, is now the largest bank to be affected by the breach in the history of the bank, Symanticech said.
The new data breaches, however, have prompted more investigations and efforts to better protect consumers and credit-score holders.
The latest data breaches were discovered and reported to the FBI by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Thursday, according the news release.