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One-year after Target breach, customers' data security still a hot topic

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A year ago almost to the day, cyberthieves began tracking customer data from 1,800 Target stores throughout the United States. For three weeks, the hackers collected data of millions of customers - initial reports said 40 million were affected, but that number climbed to 70 million later.

With Black Friday and this year's holiday shopping season around the corner, data security is still a concern for customers.

The Star Tribune cites a Gallup survey that says 69 percent of Americans worry about hackers getting credit card information. An annual study reported in USA Today has revealed that a shocking 43 percent of companies admit they have suffered a data breach in the last year.

Target wasn't alone in its breach. Since December 2013, other major retailers such as Edina-based Dairy Queen, Eden Prairie-based Supervalu, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus and even the U.S. Postal Service also experienced data breaches.

Target definitely took a hit from the rough year, seeing an impact on sales and profits, the dismissal of its CEO, Congressional hearings and Secret Service investigation.

Banks also took a hit from the breach spending money to issue customers new cards. Some banks are now part of a legal battle in court against Target. A Target lawyer told a judge last week the company is not responsible for the costs banks incurred due to the data breach, Bloomberg reports. The banks, however, believe Target should have protected their interests from criminal activity. A decision has not yet been made.

Congress is working to improve cybersecurity and had set measures into place before the Target breach for companies to switch over to EMV cards for more secure payments, according to the Star Tribune. EMV cards are basically microchips embedded into your bank card or device adding another security feature. Some call it a chip and PIN or chip and signature accounting for the extra security steps. Target has since moved up its $100 million project to update payment terminals.

Authorities believe foreign gangs are suspects in the Target breach, the Star Tribune reports. A public website has millions of debit and credit card numbers available for a nominal fee.

These issues brought security experts to Minnesota for the fourth annual Cyber Security Summit where the hot topic was dealing with these threats, which can end up costing companies a lot of money and losing customer trust.

Some analysts projected Target could spend $1 billion on the data breach. So far, about $248 million has already been spent (insurance will pick up $90 million of that tab), the Star Tribune reports.

How to protect yourself

USA Today says paying in cash is the safest way to pay when you do your holiday shopping. If you want to use a card, credit is better than debit because it's easier to dispute fraudulent charges on a credit card.

CBS reports that the risk of online shopping is the same as in store. Experts say you should be discreet with entering your PIN number.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal contributor Heinan Landa gives the following five tips to protect personal data:

  1. Use credit cards for online purchases
  2. Get your free annual credit report to see if anyone's using your information
  3. Change your password for your accounts
  4. Consider an identity theft protection service
  5. Research credit card policies

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