Experts warn local stores to watch for security breaches

Customer information is something Jennifer Atkins always keeps under wraps.

"Unfortunately, it's a reality we all have to deal with," said Atkins who owns Angelique Baby on Magazine St. "We don't want to cause any trouble for anyone."

For Atkins, the idea of a cyber security breach is a disturbing idea.

"You hear more and more of it these days, which is frightening as both a consumer and a retailer," said Atkins.

Home Depot announced Thursday that hackers had breached their computer system in both the U.S. and Canada. Customer information from 56 million cardholders is now compromised. Big retailers like Target, Neiman Marcus and Michael's have also been hit before.

"I don't like the idea of these big databases having all my information," said Ray Cannata, who tries to use cash in stores. "I try to stay guarded with my information. I don't have a bank card, I haven't had an ATM card since college."

Experts say the increase in cyber attacks has everything to do with technology - hackers can do it all without ever leaving their computer.

Nam Nguyen is CEO of Crescent City Cyber Security.

"It's become more profitable for crooks because crooks don't have to go in with a gun to rob the place," said Nguyen. "They can just sit behind a computer and compromise people's data and make a living that way."

Nguyen says consumers should use credit cards or cash at stores. A debit card can give hackers direct access to your bank account. He also suggests keeping an eye on your statements and taking advantage of credit monitoring systems stores, like Target and Home Depot have been offering.

Nguyen says anyone can be a target, even smaller businesses. It's why retailers like Atkins decided to turn to professionals.

"I leave that up to my credit card gentlemen and computer gentlemen. They've put in lots of protection." said Atkins.

After all, Atkins knows firsthand how it feels. She found fraudulent charges on her own business's credit cards.

"It was a $1.50 charge, $1.50 charge, a $5,000 charge. It was definitely planned and very, very, rapid, and very surprising," said Atkins.

And that's something Atkins never wants her customers to go through.

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