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The Washington Post reports that President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Friday designed "to protect consumers from identity theft by strengthening security features in credit cards and the terminals in which they are processed.

According to the story, "Obama ordered that government agencies that process payments employ enhanced security features. Those measures include so-called 'chip and pin' technology, meaning that secure information is embedded in a chip in a credit card and users must enter a PIN number in order to use the card, much like they currently do with a debit card."

Obama also announced "a new federal 'Buy Secure' initiative meant to spur retailers and banks toward using the chip and pin technology rather than the magnetic strips on the back of most credit cards, which are vulnerable to theft … Obama also directed law enforcement to share more information about identity theft with the private sector. The Federal Trade Commission will also work with credit bureaus to help victims recover their identities faster after they are stolen."

"The idea that somebody halfway around the world could run up thousands of dollars in charges in your name just because they stole your number or because you swiped your card at the wrong place and the wrong time, that’s infuriating," Obama said. "For victims, it’s heartbreaking. And as a country, we’ve got to do more to stop it."

The administration's decision came after a series of high-profile data breaches at retailers such as Target and Home Depot put millions of Americans' financial information at risk.

Almost immediately, retail trade associations applauded the move.

"We applaud the President’s announcement today encouraging card-issuers to include both a chip and PIN on newly-issued cards," said Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Jennifer Hatcher, adding that "FMI met with the White House in the weeks leading up to this announcement, encouraging White House officials to advocate that a PIN be attached to chip-card transactions in order to increase the security of those transactions."

Peter J. Larkin, president and CEO of the National Grocers Association, released the following statement: "We applaud the White House for addressing this multi-faceted challenge and for calling on all stakeholders to join in the shared responsibility of securing American consumers' data. We appreciate that the President shares this important goal, and is moving the ball forward to broader adoption of secure card technology and payment platforms."

"We agree with the president that this collaborative initiative has the potential to be a premier example of government leadership in driving positive change, in particular to accelerate the widespread adoption of next-generation payment security tools," said Lyle Beckwith, NACS senior vice president of government relations.

The Post notes that Obama said he is no stranger to the impact of credit card fraud - last month he tried to use a credit card at a New York restaurant and it was declined because the credit card company thought it might be a fraudulent charge.
KC's View:
I think that the thing that really amazes me about this story us the fact that Obama had to whip out his own credit card after a dinner somewhere. (Then again, based on everything we've learned lately, maybe he doesn't want to depend on the Secret Service to handle the bill…)

That said, maybe it would be equally effective if the federal government could get some smart hacker types from Stanford or MIT to break into Vladimir Putin's private accounts and maybe do a little rearranging. Just to show him what's possible…