Target Corp. had a disastrous moment this past month, when news erupted that someone had hacked into its retail computer system and had accessed some 40 million credit and debit cards from Black Friday to mid December.
Such bad news, just before the final weekend of Christmas shopping, is never welcome. It's hard on the company's sales, and hard on people whose credit cards and financial records were imperiled.
This is a teachable moment for any business, and for people who use plastic for their purchases. You can never be too careful.
Target has not said exactly how the informaiton was accessed through its point of purchase computers. We are certain, however, that the method the hackers used will be thoroughly studied, and security standards across the industry will be beefed up to prevent it from being abused.
People who used their cards at Target are being urged to keep a close eye on their credit card statements and transactions and immediately report anything unusual. Credit laws do protect people from paying for fraudulent use of their cards.
Authorities may never be able to arrest the individuals who were responsible for this theft. They may be anywhere in the world, beyond our borders and the reach of our laws. They should be tracked, though. The more we and other international law enforcement agencies know about them, the better able we will be to take precautions to prevent a future strike.
We had best learn as much as we can from this episode, before it happens again.