Posts Tagged ‘security’

Recent Breaches Highlight Importance of Data Security

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Last week, I attended the 2011 Xplor International Conference & Vendor Forum, which hosted a number of educational sessions on transactional documents, such as bills and statements, and the infrastructure that enables output and delivery of these mission-critical applications. Not only do these types of documents need to reach 100% of recipients consistently every cycle; many contain sensitive information about each recipient like credit card transactions, investment performance, utility usage, and much more. Considering the applications that are discussed at Xplor, it was no surprise that the recent data breach by database and e-mail marketing firm Epsilon came up in the discussion mix a number of times throughout the conference.

You may have heard about the Epsilon breach through the news, or you may have received an e-mail from one of the major brands affected by the breach like the ones here (courtesy of TDN editor Elizabeth Gooding; click to enlarge):

Depending on peoples’ relationships with these brands, they may have received anywhere from one to six or more of these types of e-mails about the information breach. Those brands affected include some of the biggest in the world, including Citigroup, Chase, Ritz-Carlton, TiVo, and more. In terms of the information that was accessed by attackers, it was limited to names and e-mail addresses associated with those brands. Of course, that’s just enough information to be dangerous for the attackers and whatever intentions they have with use of that data. For the affected, be on the lookout for suspicious-looking e-mails well into the future trying to collect additional information to further their efforts in malicious activity. According to a recent report, Epsilon and its parent company, Alliance Data Systems, face over $100 million in costs and lost sales due to the breach.

Epsilon is not the only service provider that has faced data security troubles in recent years. In December 2010, another e-mail marketing provider, Silverpop Systems, faced a significant data breach and made away with similar details like names, e-mail addresses, and even birth dates from customers linked to brands such as McDonald’s. A few years back, attackers obtained credit card information for over 90 million accounts from retailer TJX Corporation due to weak security standards implemented at their TJ Maxx stores. That breach ended up costing the company over $160 million.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, these types of customer data breaches have a series of negative consequences that go beyond having sensitive information get into the wrong hands:

  • Consumers are more susceptible to disguised attacks that collect their information for further misdeeds.
  • Brands themselves lose credibility with customers for the misuse of their data.
  • Companies of all sizes lose faith and trust in using third-party service providers, including marketing service providers and cloud-based services.
  • The federal government is prompted to take a much closer look at data security practices, as well data-driven marketing applications. Expect tighter regulations in the future.

As print service providers across the industry continue to offer more personalized marketing services, they are becoming responsible for their clients’ customer data to help execute those campaigns. Furthermore, to execute cross-media campaigns, many providers are leveraging hosted, third-party solutions that retain customer data. Now that customer data breaches are grabbing headlines again, service providers need to be prepared to answer questions about how data is used in applications, who has access to it, how and where it is stored, and what type of security is protecting that data.

Now would be as good a time as any to do a thorough audit of your company’s own data security practices. If you don’t have any security practices but are handling your clients’ customer data, that should raise many red flags. Even if you don’t deal with the world’s major brands, clients of all sizes from all markets expect their data to be protected when in the hands of a third party. In addition, talk with your vendors and partners about the types of data security that they offer (vendors and partners: you also better have a good answer to those asking questions).

Building trust with clients regarding the use of data is often be a long process, but can end up with great relationships, applications, and results when executed well. That trust can be destroyed in a nanosecond if data is not stored and managed securely, and can end up costing companies big time. In light of these recent breaches, take the time to audit your practices and reassure your clients that their information is being handled in a sound, secure way.


Obstacles of Digital Check Printing become “Everyday Non-Issues.”

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

By David Smith

In the past, and for many companies currently, check printing has been slow and expensive. Checks required special stocks, MICR printing – often on dedicated machines or slower mixed-use machines. When checks are only part of the mailing, this often means a separate matching step that further slows down the process. Ideally, checks would be printed in-line with the rest of a job on the same paper and at high speed. This has been a challenge in the past due to the resolution and droplet control on inkjet devices as well as the lack of MICR capabilities.

The challenge of printing checks digitally from a blank roll at relatively high speeds has been overcome due to the higher resolution of the Drop-On -Demand (DOD) print heads and the development of a jettable MICR ink. Resolution of 600 X 600 is now very common at speeds of up to 600 feet per minute when producing output that doesn’t require MICR, but when printing checks the speeds are more in the 400 feet per minute range. While these speeds are not comparable to the offset space, they are significantly faster than the traditional cutsheet and continuous EP devices commonly used to produce checks digitally. With the higher speeds, and the ability to print from a virgin roll, the overall cost of check production can be significantly reduced using the latest high speed DOD printers. 

Jetting the MICR ink initially caused a significant reduction in print head life, but manufacturers have been able to resolve the excessive wear issues through improvements to the print heads plates. Other recent breakthroughs in the production of digital checks from a blank roll include:

  • Integration of selective perfing equipment
  • Ability to use a 20# bond or 50# offset sheet
  • Digital pantographs
  • Micro printing
  • Drop out inks

The ability to use a 20# sheet can significantly reduce your postage spend in a multistage per envelope scenario.  At DST Output, initially we were advised that we would be required to use a 24# sheet, but in our testing and in the validation process we discovered that a 20# sheet meets all bank processing requirements.  The use of a digital pantograph, drop out ink and a micro print line meets the three security features requirement allowing for use of the Padlock icon on your digital checks.  The digital pantograph is a license that needs to be purchased annually at the printer level and each printer needs to be individually Check Payment Systems Association (CPSA) certified.  

In testing the MICR signal strength at DST Output over a 18 month period, the readability level has far exceeded CPSA specifications and is consistently better than what we experienced using EP printers.  In those 18 months of check printing we have produced over 10 million checks without a reported issue in terms of readability from our client’s service provider.  We are now printing checks at 800 pages per minute versus 150 pages per minute and our costs on white paper at that speed are quite a bit lower than what they were on preprint.  Getting more mail produced in one day has the added benefit of increasing postal density and reducing postal costs for our clients.

Overall, digital check printing on white paper has become an everyday non-issue allowing for reduced cost and quality that meets or exceeds US banking requirements.  

David Smith is the Operations Director for DST Output in El Dorado Hills California.