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Payment details from up to 40 million credit cards could have been stolen after they were used in the stores of US retail giant Target.
The retailer said it was investigating after discovering that thieves had gained access to its payment systems.
The data breach began around 29 November, known as Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
The attackers are believed to have been scooping up credit card details for almost three weeks.
"We take this matter very seriously and are working with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice," said Target boss Gregg Steinhafel in a statement. 40-Million Customer Credit Card Details At Risk of Theft From U.S. Retailer, Target [bbc.co.uk]
"We regret any inconvenience this may cause," said Mr Steinhafel.A decent thing to say, of course... but it's a major understatement as well. Cumulatively this kind of inconvenience, at various levels, is beginning to make life a lot more complicated.
Credit and debit card accounts stolen in a recent data breach at retail giant Target have been flooding underground black markets in recent weeks, selling in batches of one million cards and going for anywhere from $20 to more than $100 per card, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.
The breach at Target Corp. that exposed credit card and personal data on more than 110 million consumers appears to have begun with a malware-laced email phishing attack sent to employees at an HVAC firm that did business with the nationwide retailer, according to sources close to the investigation.