Details are slowly emerging in what is shaping up to be the biggest retail breach of 2013. Anyone who swiped a credit or debit card at a ‘brick and mortar’ Target store between Nov.27th and Dec. 15th is a potential victim. Currently Target is estimating that 40 million credit/debit cards may have been stolen between those dates. If these figure hold up that would make this one of the largest retail data breaches ever.
It is not totally clear if it was every US based store that was affected but certainly the majority of stores were breached. Details as to how the attackers were able to compromises Targets systems have also yet to be disclosed, we only know that the attackers were able to compromise the POS systems of this retail giant. Since the breach appears to have occurred via the POS terminals themselves, shoppers of Targets online store do not appear to be affected.
These data thieves will likely sell the card information to groups that will carry out fraud on these accounts. This could take the form of bogus charges on your credit card accounts or funds withdrawn directly using reproduced debit cards.
Perhaps the most concerning part of this breach is that there is nothing at all the consumer could have done to prevent this from happening to them but at least if you have not been victimized as a result of this breach yet, it is not too late to take some defensive measures. Consumers who did make credit or debit card transactions in a Target store during these dates should go over their account transactions with a fine tooth comb. It also may be best to play it safe and contact your card issuer to have the card number frozen and in turn have the card replaced.