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Cyber security experts in Minneapolis as data breach concerns rise

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The nation's top cyber security experts are descending on Minneapolis this week after a year of high-profile data protection failures affecting millions of consumers.

The fourth annual Cyber Security Summit, being held at The Commons Hotel at the University of Minnesota, opened Tuesday as news broke that Staples is investigating a possible data breach in the Northeast, NBC reports.

If a breach occurred, the Massachusetts-based company would become the latest in a growing line of national chains targeted by hackers in the past 12 months, with notable others including Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase and, of course, Twin Cities retail giant Target.

Target was the victim of one of the biggest attacks in November and December last year, as hackers compromised around 40 million customers' credit and debit cards. Forbes put the total cost of the breach to shareholders at almost $150 million.

It is because of these major breaches that this year's Cyber Security Summit is considered to be the most important one yet, and a news release for the event says the issue of large-scale breaches will be tackled head on by the 300 government, business and academic experts in attendance.

Gov. Mark Dayton has named October in Minnesota "Cyber Security Awareness Month" and said residents need to play a role themselves by learning more about online security, according to an announcement on the summit's website.

He says:

"The State of Minnesota recognizes that it has a vital role in identifying, protecting, and responding to cyber threats, which may have a significant impact to our individual and collective security and privacy.

"Maintaining the security of cyberspace is a shares responsibility in which each of us has a critical role to play, and awareness of computer security essentials will improve the security of the Minnesota information infrastructure and economy."

Vulnerable companies

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.

Michael Breuhmer, vice president of credit reference agency Experian, told the newspaper that as well as data breaches becoming more regular, they are also becoming larger in size.

In Minnesota, the Pioneer Press reports that 2 percent of investment advisers handling assets of under $100 million said they have been victims of cyber security attacks that resulted in the loss of confidential client information in the past year.

This is above the national average of 1.1 percent, the newspaper reports, and the survey also revealed that 19 percent of advisers don't have cyber security policies and procedures in place.

Shoppers 'should not avoid Target'

Despite suffering a monumental data breach at the end of 2013, shoppers shouldn't fear shopping at Target, according to a piece by Time.

The magazine says card holders who had their credit or debit card details stolen have limited liability, so shouldn't lose any money provided they report any fraudulent charges within 60 days of getting their statement.

It points out that Target is one of the companies that has pledged to introduce the safer "chip and pin" card payments system, which is backed by the government and already widespread in Europe.

Time also highlights that because Target has already been the victim of a major hack, it has put in place even stricter security procedures and is offering customers free credit monitoring.

Coding classes 'are cool'

Pressure is growing on Minnesota's schools to do more to give their students the computer skills they need to succeed in future decades, the Star Tribune reports.

Minnetonka is the only school district in the state to have incorporated coding into its curriculum, and the rising interest among school-age children means that more districts are considering following suit.

Interest in youth coding events such as CoderDojo Twin Cities, held at the University of Minnesota twice a month, has exploded, with registration filling up within minutes and similar classes being spawned elsewhere in the state, the Star Tribune says.

"We are witnessing a massive change in how the world views coding," Rebecca Schatz, founder of youth coding nonprofit Code Savvy, told the Star Tribune. "It's entrepreneurial, it's progressive, it's where the jobs are. Coding is cool."

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