Thursday, November 23, 2017
Business

Target says it ignored early signs of data breach

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NEW YORK — Target has acknowledged that security software picked up on suspicious activity after a cyberattack was launched, but it decided not to take immediate action.

The acknowledgement comes after Bloomberg Newsweek reported Thursday that Target's security team in India received security alerts on Nov. 30 that indicated malicious software had appeared in its network. It then flagged the security team at its home office in Minneapolis.

"Like any large company, each week at Target there are a vast number of technical events that take place and are logged," Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said. "Through our investigation, we learned after these criminals entered our network, a small amount of their activity was logged and surfaced to our team. That activity was evaluated and acted upon. Based on their interpretation and evaluation of that activity, the team determined that it did not warrant immediate followup."

Target disclosed on Dec. 19 that a data breach compromised 40 million credit and debit card accounts between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. Then on Jan. 10 it said hackers also stole personal information — including names, phone numbers, and email and mailing addresses — from as many as 70 million customers.

Target announced last week that its chief information officer, Beth Jacob, had resigned and it was searching for an interim CIO. It also said it was working to overhaul some of its divisions that handle security and technology.

Target's sales, profit and stock prices have dropped in the wake of the massive breach. The retailer reported late last month that its fourth-quarter profit fell 46 percent on a revenue decline of 5.3 percent as the breach scared off customers.

Target's sales have been recovering as more time passes, but it expects business to be muted for some time: It issued a profit outlook for the current quarter and full year that missed Wall Street estimates because it faces hefty costs related to the breach.

State and federal agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the SEC, are investigating the breach.

Target noted that over 80 actions have been filed in courts in many states, and more may be filed. It said it expects to dispute any claims from payment card networks that Target was not in compliance with security industry standards and said it's likely that such disputes will lead to settlements in those cases.

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