Discount retailer Target reported Thursday that as many as 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been breached during the holiday shopping season, one of the busiest seasons of the year for the mass merchant.
CBS News has confirmed that the Secret Service is investigating the security breach that may involve stolen credit card and debit card information from potentially millions of Target customers.
Target said it determined the information taken included the customer’s name, credit or debit card number, the car’s expiration date and the card’s three-digit security code.
In an open letter to its customers, Target said, “We have identified and resolved the issue of unauthorized access,” but cautioned its cardholders to monitor their statements and report and suspected fraudulent activities to authorities.
“We are partnering with a leading third-party forensics firm to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and to examine additional measures we can take that would be designed to help prevent incidents of this kind in the future,” Target said in its statement.
Closely watched security industry blog Krebs on Security said that the breach started Black Friday and ran until just last week. The report states that investigators think that thieves stole the data from credit machines in almost all Target stores nationwide.
“Target’s first priority is preserving the trust of our guests and we have moved swiftly to address this issue, so guests can shop with confidence. We regret any inconvenience this may cause,” chairman, president and CEO Greg Steinhafel said in an official statement.
The retailer, based in Minneapolis, said the breach affected only its U.S. stores, not its online business or Canadian outlets.
The breach is the latest in a string of high-profile incidents in which data has been accessed despite efforts by retailers, banks and other institutions to safeguard their systems.
In November, the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office offered suggestions for holiday shoppers to avoid problems this season, including using a credit card because federal law allows charges to be disputed if an item isn’t received.
The Secret Service investigates significant hacks of credit card data as part of its mission to safeguard U.S. financial infrastructure and payment systems.
More links on Technological Disasters