Target Data Breach Affected 70M, Much More Than Earlier Estimates

Target revealed that the breach affected 70 million customers, an increase from earlier estimates of 40 million.

data privacy

The Target data breach, which the U.S. retail giant first reported Dec. 9, is now significantly larger than first disclosed.

In a public statement issued Jan. 10, Target revealed that the personal information of 70 million customers was stolen in the breach that occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. Target had initially reported that 40 million credit and debit cards accounts were affected.

"As part of Target's ongoing forensic investigation, it has been determined that certain guest information—separate from the payment card data previously disclosed—was taken during the data breach," Target stated.

The expanded number of affected customers from the Target breach follows a similar pattern to what happened with the TJX data breach in 2006. TJX initially reported that 46 million of its customers were affected by data breach and then later expanded the number to 96 million as the forensic investigation into the incident continued in 2007.

"I know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken, and we are truly sorry they are having to endure this," Gregg Steinhafel, Target chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement. "I also want our guests to know that understanding and sharing the facts related to this incident is important to me and the entire Target team."

Although the data breach is a cause for concern for Target customers, the retailer as well as payment card vendors have been reassuring people that there is no customer liability. While customers are not liable for any financial loses as a result of the breach, the same cannot be said for Target, which will feel a financial impact.

"In light of the recent data breach, our top priority is taking care of our guests and helping them feel confident in shopping at Target," John Mulligan, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said in a statement. "At the same time, we remain keenly focused on driving profitable top-line growth and investing our resources to deliver superior financial results over time."

Target has downgraded its fourth-quarter 2013 earnings-per-share estimate to a range of $1.20 to $1.30, in contrast to the company's previous projection of $1.50 to $1.60 a share.

"While we are disappointed in our 2013 performance, we continue to manage our business with great discipline and leverage our expense optimization efforts to reinvest in multichannel initiatives that generate long-term value for our shareholders," Mulligan said.

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.