Online Banking: The Nightmare

Western Union's recent woes show how easy it is for hackers to crack e-safes--and the need for regulation

Early Saturday morning Sept. 9, tens of thousands of Western Union Financial Services Inc. (FDC) business and individual customers awoke to an alarming phone call. A recorded message from company President Mike Yerington warned that intruders had snaked through an Internet security hole and gained access to up to 20,000 credit-card and debit-card numbers used in Western Union money transfers. Human error led to the breach: A Western Union employee doing routine maintenance left the site unprotected.

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