Forbes: Secure Your Personal Information and the Best Deals This Holiday Season

Congressman Michael Burgess, M.D. & Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-07)

Every holiday season, millions of Americans pick up their credit cards in search of the best deals or the perfect gift for a loved one. Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping has become a tradition as time-honored as pumpkin pie for many families and pumps billions of dollars back into the economy.

Whether shopping at a brick-and-mortar store or from a tablet this year, the assumption is that retailers are doing everything they can to keep consumers’ personal information safe and secure. However, recent years have proven the risks for shoppers as several large companies have fallen victim to cybercrimes, and the personal information of millions of Americans has been compromised.

The rapid evolution of technology has empowered consumers to purchase goods and services on demand, whenever and wherever they choose, but it has also empowered criminals to target businesses and steal a host of data. This criminal activity can lead to identity theft and financial fraud that impacts consumers and the economy as a whole.

Technological advances will always outpace security measures. And the federal government will never have the manpower or resources needed to address the revolving door of cybersecurity challenges. While the onus is on the industry to take the steps to ensure secure transactions, consumers need to understand the risks that exist and how to protect themselves against threats.

In government and in the private sector, there are basic practices that should be encouraged. This includes shopping on secured websites, indicated by the “https” found at the beginning of a URL address. Additionally, banks are trending toward virtual credit card numbers that are generated for one-time use while shopping online—a premise designed to keep consumers’ banking information secure. Two-factor authentication is another simple practice that provides a backstop to keeping personal data out of the hands of criminals.

Keeping consumers’ personal information safe online is the shared responsibility of the consumer, industry and the government. With the increased prevalence of cybercrimes by the day, we have a responsibility to improve cyber safeguards. We believe a federal solution should include a single—but flexible—data security requirement.

In the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Peter Welch (D-VT) have taken steps to address this underplayed threat to consumers in the bipartisan Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015 (HR 1770). While 47 states currently have security standards in place, this legislation would set a national data security standard to alert consumers when their information may have been compromised in a breach—a simple concept that is widely overlooked.

The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade has explored cybersecurity over a number of hearings this Congress, including our Disrupter Series. We have heard from industry leaders on the exciting growth we are facing. However, we also need to see meaningful leadership from industry in addressing these challenges. Take the necessary precautions this holiday season to ensure the only thing you are sharing is cheer and not your personal information.