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Bipartisan group of Senators try to strengthen cybersecurity of SNAP program | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware | #hacking | #aihp


08 March 2024- U.S. Senators John Fetterman (D-PA), Ron Wyden, (D-OR), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) today introduced the Enhanced Cybersecurity for SNAP Act to stop criminals from exploiting security flaws in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards used to pay for groceries. Exploiting these flaws allows criminals to steal food benefits from families with low incomes. The legislation would update the cybersecurity regulations for SNAP cards, which haven’t been updated since 2010, to require fraud-resistant chips and move away from outdated, insecure magnetic stripes. This legislation would ensure USDA proactively updates EBT requirements as new technology is available. Congressmen Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Mike Lawler (R-NY) introduced the companion bill in the House.

“SNAP is a critical lifeline for nearly 2 million Pennsylvanians — we must do everything we can to protect it. It’s despicable that thieves are targeting vulnerable hungry families with cyber-crime scams. We can’t let families go hungry because of bad faith actors,” said Senator Fetterman. “As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, I am proud to work across the aisle on this bipartisan, bicameral bill to modernize SNAP and stop criminals from stealing critical food assistance from working families.”

Families across the country have had their SNAP funds stolen by fraudsters who are exploiting the lack of security in EBT cards. Abigail M. of Erie, PA, shared her experience with skimming:

“Near the beginning of August 2023, someone stole my SNAP benefits, completely draining my account, leaving me without my usual food money for the rest of the month.”

“So, what do you do when the people on the helpline aren’t able to help and you have no answer on when or if your benefits will be reimbursed?”

Cards like the one Abigail used currently lack the fraud-resistant chips that are built into bank-issued credit and debit cards. As a result, EBT cards are highly vulnerable to a form of fraud known as skimming, where thieves clone the card number from the magnetic stripe on a victim’s card to produce duplicate cards which can then be used to steal victims’ SNAP funds.

The Enhanced Cybersecurity for SNAP Act addresses fraud by directing USDA to update its cybersecurity regulations to ensure SNAP benefits cannot be easily stolen by criminals. Specifically, this bill will require:

  • USDA to issue updated regulations requiring EBT cards to feature anti-fraud technology capable of resisting cloning. These regulations, which also cover mobile payments (such as tap-to-pay with a smartphone), will be updated every five years and must keep pace with private sector and federal agency payment security safeguards.
  • With USDA funding, states will begin issuing chip-enabled EBT cards within two years of the adoption of the new regulations. Within four years, states will no longer be able to issue new EBT cards containing a magnetic stripe. Within five years, states will have to reissue all existing EBT cards containing a magnetic stripe as chip-only cards.
  • USDA to operate a grant program providing funds for upgraded chip-capable payment machines to small grocery stores in food deserts, farmers markets, and farm-to-consumer programs.
  • States to provide families with no-fee replacements of EBT cards in three days or less, if their card is stolen, cloned by fraudsters, or malfunctioning.
  • States to offer multiple accessible, reliable, and mobile-friendly user interfaces, such as a smartphone app or online web portal, for families to manage their EBT account.

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