Target Data Breach Case Study: Lessons Learned

Target data breach case study. What are the lessons we learned from the data breach that happened more than six years ago?

Target is the United State’s second-leading discount store retailer. only behind Walmart. It was founded almost a century ago, in 1902 by George Dayton.

As of 2019, they have reported revenue of around $75.35 billion. And its current CEO is Brian Cornell.

Today, Target is facing some store closures due to the effects of COVID-19. But in 2014, they faced a different kind of hardship.

What was it? A data breach that cost them $252 million. Why? What happened?

Keep on reading to know the lessons we learned from Target’s data breach.

Target Data Breach Case Study

What happened? First, the attackers did a good job of researching for Target’s different vendors. 

After a good amount of time, they were able to pull up a list of the retailer’s HVAC vendors.

With that knowledge, they opted not to do a direct attack on Target. But attack its vendors. And one of the victims was their HVAC vendor, Fazio Mechanical.

So, attackers tricked them into installing malware by sending them a phishing email. The malware was Citadel, a bot program that steals passwords.

Why did attackers get into Fazio’s system? Because they did not use the enterprise version of Malwarebytes anti-malware. Instead, they used the free version.

It offered no real-time protection whatsoever. Thus, making it easier for the Citadel to attack.

So, once the malware was set, it stole the credentials of Fazio. The main aim was to get into Target’s vendor portal.

Then, after getting into it, they looked for any weak spots. After finding one, they got into Target’s network. By installing a malware called Kaptoxa into their POS systems.

And most possible, it was via an automated update. What was the result?

The Fault and the Result

FireEye, a monitoring system, already detected the intrusion. Then, it did a good job of alerting Target’s staff in Bangalore, India.

But here is where the fault lies. After the Bangalore office alerted the Minneapolis office, they took no action.

Then, Target only took action when the Department of Justice already contacted them. But it was too late. A lot already happened.

Due to the malware, around 700 million credit card data got stolen. And that is from around 2000 Target stores. So, around 11 GB of data got stolen.

This happened due to the malware in the POS systems. So, once customers swipe their cards, their details got saved to a .dll file.

Then, the attackers sold their credit card details on the black market. Or the dark web. Have you heard of these two? Yes, it is real.

As a result, Target lost around $252 million. Then, their insurance covered the $90 million of that cost.

At the end of the year, they reported a net loss of $2.6 billion versus a $352 million profit. 

Further, they lost 35 points on their “Buzz score” and became -9. And days later after the breach, it even dropped to -19.

So, Target’s data breach cost them a lot. Both in money and their reputation.

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