I’ve been pushing a lot of info out for Cyber Security Awareness Month to help empower you to keep yourself and your business safe from hackers. Last week I visited a client, Coen Markets, who gave me some great tips and insights how to keep you safe somewhere you might not even think you’re vulnerable: at the gas pump.

The gas pump you say? How the heck is a hacker getting in there?

“Sometimes bad actors place skimmers in the card readers in pumps, then just sit across the street and steal the credit card numbers in real time,” says Brad Miller, Director of Information Technology at Coen Markets.

I don’t know about you, but I really dislike pumping gas, especially as the weather gets colder. However, what I DO like is being able to swipe my card at the pump and not have to run inside to pay.

So, by what magic is it that a skimmer got into a gas pump? Well apparently, you can open the enclosure where the card swipe is pretty easily if you know what you’re doing and add a device that copies your credit card information when you swipe your card.

Coen Markets operates 28 convenience stores in the Tri-State area (and growing), and they take security very seriously. Recently, Coen Markets announced it acquiring CoGo’s and, together, will be increase its store count to over 65 locations.

They have many tools in place to keep their company and customers secure. One such tool is low-tech, but very effective: Anti-tamper safety stickers on all pumps. Each shift, employees review all gas pumps to assure the stickers are in place and not tampered with. Anything out of band is reported and addressed immediately.

Brad and I shared some war stories and we talked about a recent incident in the area where they caught a young kid from Romania who had installed a skimmer in a gas pump, connected it to Bluetooth, and was sitting across the street waiting for victims.

There are a few points to call out there. First, we aren’t in New York City or D.C. We are talking about an illegal foreign national hacking gas pumps in suburban or rural Pennsylvania. The dangers of getting compromised are real and present no matter where you live.

Second, being safe from bad actors extends outside of online or internet safety and savvy. You must stay vigilant in your physical surroundings as well.

Third, consider frequenting stores like Coen who go to great lengths to not only protect their business, but also to protect YOU, their customer.

Any other advice for consumers? “Always check for a safety sticker at the pump every time. If you don’t see one or it says VOID then go inside to pay… and don’t forget to alert the staff inside.”

Stickers vary in color and wording, but here is an example of an intact sticker and a sticker that has been tampered with. Stay vigilant out there!

Check out my NEW book Cyber Warfare: Protecting Your Business From Total Annilihation.


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