Target’s security software detected potentially malicious activity during last year’s massive data breach, but its staff decided not to take immediate action, the retailer said Thursday.
“With the benefit of hindsight, we are investigating whether if different judgments had been made the outcome may have been different,” company spokeswoman Molly Snyder said in a statement.
The disclosure came after Bloomberg Businessweek reported Thursday that Target’s security team in Bangalore, India, had received alerts from a FireEye security system on Nov. 30 after the attack was launched and sent them to Target headquarters in Minneapolis.
The FireEye reports indicated that malicious software had appeared in the system and that attackers were planning to send stolen data to servers outside Target’s network, according to a person whom Bloomberg Businessweek had consulted on Target’s investigation but was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
Target’s chief financial officer, John Mulligan, told a congressional committee in February that the company began investigating Dec. 12, when the U.S. Justice Department warned the company about suspicious activity involving payment cards.
About 40 million payment card records were stolen from the retailer, along with 70 million other records with customer information such as addresses and telephone numbers.
There was a mix of good and bad news for retailers Thursday: Sales bounded back last month, but the winter drop was bigger than estimated, the government reported.
February’s retail sales were 0.3 percent higher than the previous month’s, but January’s sales were revised down, according to a monthly report from the Commerce Department.
Last month’s uptick is a boost for retailers, who faced a string of monthly sales declines because of the harsh winter, a weak holiday season and excessive discounts that hurt their profits.
January sales fell by 0.6 percent, down from the initial estimate of 0.4 percent.
Because of the harsh weather over much of the nation, economists had said it was too soon to tell whether the monthly drops were a sign of larger problems in the retail sector. But now analysts point to it as a weather-related blip.
Sales of furniture, clothing and department store goods rose in February, while electronics and appliances slipped.
● Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate for a 30-year mortgage increased to 4.37 percent from 4.28 percent last week. The average for the 15-year lien rose to 3.38 percent from 3.32 percent. Rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows about a year ago.
● General Electric’s credit card unit filed for an initial public offering, the first step in the conglomerate’s long-awaited plan to exit retail finance and reduce its dependence on its financing arm. GE announced plans in November to spin off the North American retail finance business into a publicly traded company, to be called Synchrony Financial. The document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission did not indicate how many shares will be offered or at what price.
● Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that he called President Obama to express his frustration over what he said was long-lasting damage caused by the government’s surveillance programs. Posting on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg wrote that he has “been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the U.S. government.” He added that when Facebook’s “engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden confirmed that Obama spoke with Zuckerberg.
● At-home soda machines are catching on with Americans. U.S. retail sales of home soda machines soared 30 percent last year, and sales of the accompanying products — CO2 carbonators, bottles, mixes and syrups — more than doubled, according to NPD Group, a market researcher. The firm did not provide a dollar figure. The best-known home soda machines are made by SodaStream International, an Israeli company that recently hired actress Scarlett Johansson as a spokeswoman.
— From news services
● 8:30 a.m.: Producer price index for February.