Vending machine company announces major data breach

Up to 40,000 reported may be affected by breach of Vacationland Vendors machines at waterparks in Wisconsin, Tennessee

Vacationland Vendors, a company that supplies vending machines and games to entertainment venues, has disclosed a data breach affecting about 40,000 people who visited waterpark resorts in Wisconsin and Tennessee between December 2008 and May 2011.

In a statement, Vacationland Vendors said that an unknown intruder had broken into certain parts of its point-of-sale systems used to process payment-card transactions at Wilderness Resorts locations in Tennessee and in the city of Wisconsin Dells, Wis. The statement does not specify how many people were affected by the breach, but a report in The Credit Union Times Web site pegged the number at 40,000 victims.

The company's investigations show that, "a computer hacker improperly acquired credit card and debit information," the vendor said on its website.

The company did not disclose how it discovered the breach or when. The statement also did not say whether those affected by the breach have been notified. Vacationland did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the statement, Vacationland claimed that the breach had not resulted from any internal security weakness at either of the two Wilderness Resorts. "Vacationland Vendors has learned that other businesses just like its own have been affected by this computer hacker," the statement said.

The company urged those who visited the resorts between December 12, 2008 and May 25, 2011 to take immediate steps to mitigate their exposure to fraud. It instructed those affected to watch for suspicious transactions on their bank and credit card statements. It also urged them to consider adding a fraud alert with the major credit bureaus.

Breaches of point-of-sale networks have typically involved the use of malicious software to sniff out and intercept payment card data as the information is transmitted to the bank for authorization. The massive compromise at Heartland Payment Systems, which resulted in the exposure of tens of millions of credit and debit cards, for instance, resulted from a breach of the company's point-of-sale network.

A rash of similar incidents in recent years have led to calls for the use of end-to-end encryption technologies to protect cardholder data from the moment the card is swiped to the time the data is received by the bank or payment processor.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

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