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Target CEO Steps Down in Wake of Data Breach

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Minneapolis, MNIt’s fitting, in a way, that on Mother’s Day we’re highlighting one of the mothers of all data breaches, and the fallout that recently occurred with the resignation of Target Corporation’s Chief and CEO. A data breach is a serious compromise of security that can put sensitive data into the hands of criminals.

ABC News ran a story by the Associated Press (AP) May 5 that highlighted the exit of Gregg Steinhafel, the Chief Executive Officer of the retail giant who also served as president and chairman of the Board of Directors. And while chief executive officers come and go akin to bank managers, what killed Steinhafel’s job appears to be the fallout from the pre-Christmas data breach that impacted millions of Target customers.

The more recent Heartbleed bug, which was indeed more a bug than a virus, paled in comparison to what happened when hackers accessed Target’s supposedly secure database and made off with millions of credit card and debit card records.

As more and more consumers embrace online commerce, the increased level of business conducted online puts an even greater emphasis on security. While many consumers still don’t trust the online world with their information, a majority are putting greater value on the opportunity to shop from home and take advantage of various online deals retailers reserve for web-only purchasers.

The growth in online retailing, in fact, can be summed up in one word: Amazon.

Amazon serves as a competitor to the 1,800-strong Target chain. Various reports suggest Target has been struggling to maintain market share in the face of competition from Wal-Mart and Amazon, amongst others.

The data breach shook the confidence in Target’s core customer base, causing many consumers to file lawsuits over the theft of personal and sensitive data consumers assumed to be secure.

Steinhafel, 59, took the hit and held himself accountable. In a letter the former CEO addressed to the Board of Directors, the contents of which having been shared with AP, the 30-year veteran of Target wrote that “the last several months have tested Target in unprecedented ways. From the beginning, I have been committed to ensuring Target emerges from the data breach a better company, more focused than ever on delivering for our guests.”

It was December 19, according to AP, that Target disclosed a data breach of 40 million credit and debit card accounts. Three weeks later, on January 10 of this year, Target admitted to a further breach that encompassed the theft of personal information from as many as 70 million consumers.

In addition to Steinhafel’s exit, Target also parted ways with its Chief Information Officer and announced a move to store credit and debit cards featuring chip-and-PIN security features, making Target the first major US retailer to implement the technology in its branded credit and debit cards.

Critics and victims of the Target security breach opine that it’s too little, too late.


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