Target Missed Early Warning Signs of Holiday Data Breach
March 13, 2014 1:45 PM
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It received notifications of suspicious activity on November 30
Target's massive data breach over the holiday season last year could've been stopped earlier had the company's officials responded to warnings.
, Target officials received warnings of suspicious malware on November 30, 2013, indicating a possible data breach. However, they moved too slowly in responding to these warnings, leading to millions of customer credit/debit cards and personal information being stolen.
Target possesses a malware detection tool made by FireEye Inc., which is ran by security specialists in Bangalore, India. These specialists monitor Target's digital activity, and on November 30, they sent notifications to Target officials in Minneapolis about the malware.
The specialists in India sent additional warnings on December 2 as additional malware surfaced. FireEye's security system has the ability to automatically delete such malware, but Target’s security team turned off the feature. This means the malware had to be deleted manually, but the Target officials in Minneapolis failed to do so right away.
Had they done so, the massive breach could have been stopped much sooner, sparing many millions of customers.
The breach ended up running from November 27 to December 18, where 40 million credit and debit card records were stolen and another 70 million records with customer information like addresses and telephone numbers were taken.
Last week, Target's Chief Information Officer Beth Jacob resigned in the wake of the data breach. Jacob held the CIO position since 2008, where she was in charge of Target's website, internal computer systems, and everything in between.
When the data breach happened last year, a lot of the blame likely fell on Jacob's shoulders, which could be the reason for her resignation.
Since the breach, Target has been working to make fixes to ensure that it won't happen again. One of these fixes is
a call for smartcards
, which could replace current credit and debit cards.
Smartcards, unlike current credit and debit cards used in the U.S., have a tiny microprocessor chip that encrypts the user's personal data shared with the merchant's sales terminals. Traditional credit and debit cards have a magnetic strip instead, which hold's the user's information, but can clearly be compromised. If a smartcard number is stolen, it's useless without the microchip.
To show Target's dedication to the smartcard cause, it's speeding up its goal of bringing its REDcard smartcards to all Target stores by early 2015 -- six months earlier than its previous goal. The chain is making a $100 million investment in the technology to accomplish this goal.
In addition to smartcards, Target is changing technology and security roles within the company, such as separating the responsibility for assurance risk and compliance (compliance duties at Target were overseen by Target's current vice president of assurance risk and compliance).
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RE: As An IT Manager This Means Nothing
3/14/2014 9:53:03 AM
It's a situation of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. When you have thousands of alerts per day, the majority of which are false positives, who will filter through all of that? Fire Eye's job was to send out alerts which were most likely automated. It was up to Target to decide which of those alerts were actionable.
In the perfect world, all organizations would investigate and scrutinize every single IT alert. But in the real world with limited resources, who is going to do this. That was my point.
RE: As An IT Manager This Means Nothing
3/15/2014 11:41:36 AM
I'm not disagreeing on the fact that assessing threats involves a large amount of resources.
But regardless of the amount of effort involved in evaluating potential threats, it's still the simple truth: As a business, you have a financial responsibility to your shareholders to ensure an appropriate risk-assessment for investing in security evaluation of threats. Target failed in this case, losing millions in sales and hurting its market standing. This failure stems from executive management/direction; as a manager you have to work within your means provided from above, thus I think it's appropriate the CIO stepped down.
Excuses for amount of effort involved just is not going to cut it when large stakes are involved, especially in hindsight. This may be a sign that companies today need to re-assess their security risk analysis and determine what an appropriate level of investment would be.
“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs
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