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Target fast-tracks new credit card security following data breach

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Target flickr
Target flickr

Target says it's accelerating a program that will update its retail stores with technology designed to thwart credit card fraud. In an op-ed in The Hill, Target chief financial officer John Mulligan says the company is moving up its goal to utilize chip-enabled smart cards, and now plans to have them in stores by early 2015, which is six months earlier than originally planned. Those cards encrypt point of sale data, rendering the credit card number less useful if stolen. Mulligan notes that the smart cards have not taken off in the US, but have resulted in lower card number theft in other countries, notably Canada and the United Kingdom.

Stores will have it in early 2015

Approximately 40 million credit and debit cards were compromised last year during a security breach that took place during the busiest shopping season of the year. That attack also spanned out to 70 million records that included customer mailing addresses and phone numbers. Both were linked back to a vulnerability exploited on Target's point of sale registers using malware. In the fallout, Target's offered affected customers a free year of credit card monitoring.

The move to smart cards is not Target's first. Mulligan notes that the company piloted an earlier, more expensive version of the technology a decade ago, but came out with "mixed results." This newer version involves a $100 million investment that will require an update to Target's card readers, as well as its REDcard credit and debit cards.