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Target Security Breach May Have Affected 40M Customer Credit Cards

Image: Target Security Breach May Have Affected 40M Customer Credit Cards

By Alexandra Ward   |   Thursday, 19 Dec 2013 09:45 AM

A massive security breach at nearly every Target store in the country may have affected up to 40 million shoppers' credit and debit accounts, the chain retail store said in a statement Thursday.

"Target alerted authorities and financial institutions immediately after it was made aware of the unauthorized access, and is putting all appropriate resources behind these efforts," the company statement read. "Among other actions, Target is partnering with a leading third-party forensics firm to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident."

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Krebs on Security, a popular security industry blog, first broke the news of the security breach Wednesday, reporting that an estimated 40 million accounts were impacted in a widespread hacking scheme between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 of this year.

A Secret Service investigator told CBS News that the card data was stolen through malicious software that hackers installed on the terminal machines where customers swipe their credit or debit cards during checkout.

"The type of data stolen — also known as 'track data' — allows crooks to create counterfeit cards by encoding the information onto any card with a magnetic stripe," Krebs reported. "If the thieves also were able to intercept PIN data for debit transactions, they would theoretically be able to reproduce stolen debit cards and use them to withdraw cash from ATMs."

It appears that only shoppers who purchased items in brick-and-mortar Target stores were targeted, not those who shopped online.

"When all is said and done, this one will put its mark up there with some of the largest retail breaches to date," the Krebs report said, quoting an unnamed source.

The biggest retailer credit and debit card security breach was made public in 2007 when TJX Cos, which owns TJ Maxx and Marshalls, claimed hackers stole data from 45.7 million customer cards. Court documents later revealed that the suspects could have obtained more than 94 million account numbers.

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