NEW YORK — The hackers who stole millions of credit and debit card numbers from Target may have used a Pittsburgh-area heating and refrigeration business as the back door to get in.
Fazio Mechanical Services Inc., a contractor that does business with Target, issued a statement Thursday saying it was the victim of a "sophisticated cyberattack operation," just as Target was. It said it is cooperating with the Secret Service and Target to figure out what happened.
The statement came days after Internet security bloggers identified the Sharpsburg, Pa., company as the third-party vendor through which hackers penetrated Target's computer systems.
The new details about the Target breach illustrate just how vulnerable big corporations have become as they expand and connect computer networks to offer greater convenience and increase productivity.
"Companies really have to look at the risks associated with that," said Ken Stasiak, CEO of SecureState, a Cleveland-based firm that investigates data breaches. Stasiak added that industry regulations require companies to separate corporate operations such as contracts and billing from the financial information of consumers.
Target has said it believes that hackers gained access to its vast computer network through one of its vendors. Once inside, the hackers moved through the network and installed malicious software in the company's checkout system.
Experts believe that the thieves gained access during the busy holiday season to about 40 million debit and credit card numbers and the personal information — including names, email addresses, phone numbers and home addresses — of as many as 70 million customers.
Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary confirmed that investigators are looking into the attack at Fazio Mechanical Services, but he wouldn't provide details.
"Like Target, we are a victim of a sophisticated cyberattack operation," Ross Fazio, the company's president and owner, said in a statement.
Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based Target, would not comment, citing the investigation.