Staples, which has been investigating a security breach since October, recently announced that the attack may have exposed more than 1.16 million credit cards to cyber-criminals.

According to Fortune, 115 Staples locations in 35 different states fell victim to the invasion. Hackers were able to install information-stealing malware on those stores' point-of-sale devices, enabling them to steal customers' names, credit card numbers, expiration dates and verification codes. For a complete list of the affected stores, click here.

For all but two of the impacted stores, customers who made purchases with a card from Aug. 10 to Sept. 16 may have had their information stolen. Malware was active at the remaining two stores from July 20 through Sept. 16. Staples is offering free identity theft protection services for customers who made a purchase during this time at an affected store, and is urging its customers to check their financial accounts carefully during this time.

"Staples is committed to protecting customer data and regrets any inconvenience caused by this incident," said the company in an official statement. "Staples has taken steps to enhance the security of its point-of-sale systems, including the use of new encryption tools."

Point-of-sale encryption is crucial for companies that want to guard against future hacking attempts, since data breaches seem to grow more frequent with each passing month.

If you own a business, be sure you're operating only the best and most secure payment processing software. It's much easier to defend against a cyber-attack than it is to clean up the messy aftermath of one, especially where consumers' data is involved. Make your store a place where your customers feel their data is secure and protected.