Target Breach's Latest Victim Is the Company's CEO

Gregg Steinhafel steps down as Target CEO, five months after a data breach left more than 70 million consumers at risk.

U.S. retail giant Target today announced that CEO Gregg Steinhafel is leaving his post, effective immediately. Steinhafel has been working at Target for 35 years and had been serving as the company's CEO since 2008.

Under Steinhafel's watch, Target was the victim of a data breach that was first disclosed on Dec. 19, 2013. The breach occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013, and impacted at least 70 million consumers.

John Mulligan, Target's chief financial officer, will act as the interim president and CEO, and Steinhafel will work as an adviser to the company during the transition period.

"Under his [Steinhafel's] leadership, the company has not only enhanced its ability to execute, but has broadened its strategic horizons," Target noted in a statement. "He also led the company through unprecedented challenges, navigating the financial recession, reacting to challenges with Target's expansion into Canada, and successfully defending the company through a high-profile proxy battle."

Ultimately, however, it was the December 2013 data breach that painted a target on Steinhafel's back.

"He held himself personally accountable and pledged that Target would emerge a better company," Target stated.

Just last week, Steinhafel was publicly active in his efforts to move Target forward with new security initiatives. Ironically, while today Steinhafel is stepping down as Target's CEO, it is also the day that the company's new CIO, Bob DeRodes, officially starts. DeRodes replaces former Target CIO Beth Jacob, who resigned her post on March 5 as part of the breach fallout.

Target also recently announced that it will be accelerating the move to Chip and PIN credit card technology. Magnetic stripe-based credit cards do not provide the same level of security and fraud protection as Chip and PIN-based credit cards, which are already widely deployed outside of the United States. Starting in 2015, Target's REDcard-branded credit and debit cards will include MasterCard's Chip and PIN technology.

Under Steinhafel's leadership, Target has also taken other steps to improve its security, including resetting the passwords for 445,000 Target team members and tightening up system access overall.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.