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Top officer out as Target restructures security oversight team

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In the wake of the massive data breach that has put Target on the hot seat with customers, banks and lawmakers, the company's chief information officer has announced she is leaving the Minneapolis-based discount retailer. The company also announced that it will overhaul its security management oversight team in light of the issue.

The Associated Press reports that Beth Jacob resigned effective Wednesday. She had held the position since 2008 and oversaw teams in the U.S. and India. In a letter to Target Chairman, President and CEO Gregg Steinhafel furnished by Target, Jacob said resigning was a "difficult decision," but she added that "this was a time of significant transformation for the retail industry and for Target."

Steinhafel said the company will search for an interim chief information officer while it looks outside the company for a chief information security officer and a chief compliance officer. Previously, information security functions were split among a variety of executives. Target's new chief information security officer will centralize those responsibilities. The AP report said that Target is working on the overhaul with an outside adviser to help evaluate its technology, structure, processes and talent.

Jacob's resignation hardly comes as a surprise. Just 12 days after the data breach was disclosed on Dec. 19, Forbes magazine carried an article entitled, "The Target On The CIO's Back." The first paragraph of the story by contributor Howard Baldwin reads, "Man, I sure wouldn’t want to be Target CIO Beth Jacob this week. I can’t think of anything worse for a retail CIO than to have a security breach become public during the holiday shopping season."

The story goes on to say that it would be unfortunate if Jacob's career was sunk by the security problem.

"She is an innovative and forward-looking CIO," Baldwin concludes. "While security is ultimately her responsibility, it would be a shame for someone of her vision to be felled by a lapse – intentional or unintentional – within her ranks, if that’s indeed what happened."

Last week Target reported its profit for the fourth quarter fell 46 percent on a revenue decline of 5.3 percent. It issued a profit outlook for the current quarter and full year that was below Wall Street estimates.

The company is offering free credit monitoring for a year for Target customers. It's also pushing a $100 million plan to roll out chip-based credit cards, which experts say will be more secure than traditional magnetic stripe cards.

A recent Minnesota Poll in the Star Tribune showed that customers in Target's home state have not lost their loyalty to the retailer, with 82 percent of those surveyed saying they are shopping at Target as much as they ever did.

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