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Could What Might Have Been The Biggest Data Breach In U.S. History Have Been Prevented?

With indictments handed down for three men who allegedly stole more than 130 million credit and debit numbers in what is being called the largest identity theft case in U.S. history, many consumers and small businesses are left wondering what they can do to better protect their personal and financial information. This heightened concern lends additional support for a new category of security product the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has named Secure Payment Agents (SPAs) that enable users to prevent their personal information from being entered into databases in the first place. Launched last week by Kemesa, Shop Shield (, is the first product to be recognized by the ITRC as an SPA.

The indictments come on the heels of the recent Network Solutions data breach, which affected more than 4,300 merchants and compromised more than 573,000 credit and debit card accounts. The growing number of breaches not only shake consumer confidence, but are also costly to banks that have to block and re-issue cards to consumers who have been impacted, not to mention the fraud costs associated with stolen card use. As a result, it is noteworthy that Shop Shield uses only virtual VISA cards usable only at a single merchant and, in the majority of cases, expire after a single use.

"Industry regulations are only part of the answer. Companies must continually test their systems against attacks because hackers are also testing programs to enter a system. One way for consumers and small businesses to protect their identity and financial information against hackers and data breaches is to not give up their information in the first place. They also can make sure that the data they do provide is useless and untraceable if it's stolen. That's what Secure Payment Agents are all about," said Linda Foley, founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

Shop Shield has the power to change the way consumers shop, pay bills or simply register at websites. Available now for a free 60-day trial, Shop Shield prevents online identity theft by replacing personal and financial information with anonymous, untraceable data each time a consumer makes a purchase online, pays a bill or registers at a website. With Shop Shield, personal information can't be stolen, because it's never revealed during the online transaction process.

"The indictments of the hackers who perpetrated these massive data breaches are a stark reminder of how little control consumers have when they are routinely required to give up their personal and financial data - which is at the root of consumers' fears about safely shopping, especially on the Internet," said Steve Bachenheimer, founder and CEO, Kemesa. "As consumers share information with retailers, online stores and payment processors like Heartland, they have no idea what might happen to their information once it goes into their databases. This is apparent every time a new data breach, often involving millions of compromised files, makes the headlines - reinforcing the need for a solution like Shop Shield."