Hackers swiped the names, home and email addresses, phone numbers and other personal information of up to 70 million Target shoppers, the superstore giant admitted today.
Evidence of the customer database raid was discovered during an investigation into the attack on Target's payment systems that leaked 40 million credit and debit cards to cyber-crooks. That sensitive banking data, as well as the personal records, were siphoned unencrypted from Target's computers between November 27 and December 15 last year.
In an advisory, the company said:
As part of Target’s ongoing forensic investigation, it has been determined that certain guest [customer] information - separate from the payment card data previously disclosed - was taken during the data breach.
This theft is not a new breach, but was uncovered as part of the ongoing investigation. At this time, the investigation has determined that the stolen information includes names, mailing addresses, phone numbers or email addresses for up to 70 million individuals.
Staff at the US chain will now call and email customers whose contact information was illegally harvested to alert them that they are now at risk of identity theft and fraud. The company said it will only warn people of the blunder: anyone claiming to be from Target and asking for more details, whether by email or phone, will be a phishing crook.
"I know that it is frustrating for our guests [customers] to learn that this information was taken and we are sorry they are having to endure this," Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel said.
"Our guests expect more from us and deserve better. And I want them to know that understanding and sharing the facts is important to me and the entire Target team."
Customers' bank card PIN numbers, stolen during the hackers' holiday season ransacking, were encrypted using 3DES, although lifted card numbers – which can be used to clone a victim's card – have been spotted for sale on underground marketplaces.
Target said people affected by the security breach will be offered one year of free identify-theft protection and credit-monitoring services. The biz also warned investors that the cock-up will hit the chain's financial figures.
Anxious shoppers can find more details on Target's corporate site. ®