By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated January 10, 2014.
Target has upped the estimates on its holiday data breach, raising the number of those affected to between 70 million and 110 million people. That’s about three times higher than the retailing giant’s initial projections of 40 million affected users.
“I know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken, and we are truly sorry they are having to endure this,” said Gregg Steinhafel, Target's chief executive. However, Target has still not disclosed how the breach occurred.
More Facts Needed
We caught up with Lamar Bailey, director of security research and development at TripWire, to get his take on the latest Target revelations. He told us everyone is talking about the increased numbers of customers affected by this breach but the number of accounts isn’t the real concern.
“The real concern is that that along with the account numbers and pins even more data was stolen including full names, phone numbers, physical and e-mail addresses. This disclosure indicated that the breach happened deeper in the network than originally thought and, as is often the case, we may not have the complete story yet,” Bailey said.
“Target is saying most of the data is ‘partial in nature,' but of the 70 million accounts that were breached how many had all their data exposed? All Target shoppers should be checking their credit reports and card statements for fraudulent accounts and charges. Everyone should assume everything but your DNA profile was stolen,” he added.
Entire Network Compromised?
Ken Westin, a security researcher at TripWire, told us this incident reflects the horrifying truth of today’s data breaches, the organizations affected rarely know they have been breached. Even when they do, he said, it takes a long time before they know the duration of the breach or the scope of the breach.
“The fact that such a massive amount of additional data was comprised provides security researchers a better picture of what has happened. Target’s whole [network] appears to have been compromised, not just the payment processing side,” Westin said.
“When a network is compromised it’s easy for an attacker to move laterally because internal security controls are generally much more lax. These attackers had weeks to move around within the Target network, it would be safe to assume their entire network was compromised as a result," he said.
Will It Get Worse?
From his perspective, Tyler Reguly, security research and development manager at TripWire, told us it definitely looks like we're talking about a multi-pronged attack considering 40 million credit and debit accounts and now 70 million individuals having had their data stolen.
“We know account data was due to a compromise at the point of sale level. If the personal data compromise happened in the same place, you really have to question Target's business practices and wonder why was this data stored at that level. It's more likely that this breach occurred elsewhere in their network, especially since it was referred to as a separate attack,” Reguly said.
“So the numbers are 70 million and 40 million with ‘some overlap’ but let's put those together, we're talking about potentially 110 million people having some portion of their data breached. If you apply the ‘some overlap,' then you're down to maybe 100 million, that's still a huge data breach. It will be interesting to know exactly what the final number is,” Reguly added.