Report: Target Breach Succeeded Because Retailer Didn't React to Its Own Safeguards

Damian Dovarganes/AP

The hack compromised 40 million credit and debit cards.

The hack that embarrassed U.S. retailer Target and left millions of customers' credit card information naked and exposed wasn't particularly complex or all that elaborate, according to new investigation. It only worked because, for some reason, Target didn't react to the safeguards it put in place.

Bloomberg Businessweek spoke with over 10 Target employees who were privy to the company's data security protocol and eight people "with specific knowledge of the hack" and came away with a less than flattering picture of Target's approach to security. The story basically says that Target was sitting on its hands while it was being hacked to smithereens. Businessweek explains:

 Poring over computer logs, Target found FireEye’s alerts from Nov. 30 and more from Dec. 2, when hackers installed yet another version of the malware. Not only should those alarms have been impossible to miss, they went off early enough that the hackers hadn’t begun transmitting the stolen card data out of Target’s network. Had the company’s security team responded when it was supposed to, the theft that has since engulfed Target, touched as many as one in three American consumers, and led to an international manhunt for the hackers never would have happened at all.

The hack was malware that would steal credit card information with a swipe and store it on Target's servers. Hackers then uploaded more malware to spirit away the numbers to a different server, which Target's data safeguards caught. 

That oversight ended with hackers compromising 40 million credit and debit cards, and costing banks and credit unions some $200 million. It also hurt Target pretty badly. "Partly because of the fraud costs, Target said its fourth-quarter profit was down 46 percent while revenue fell 5.3 percent," ABC News reported in February.And the company is still trying to figure out how to win back its customers' trust.