NEW YORK – Luxury merchant Neiman Marcus confirmed Saturday that thieves stole some of its customers’ payment card information and made unauthorized charges over the holiday season, becoming the second retailer in recent weeks to announce it had fallen victim to a cybersecurity attack.
The hacking, coming weeks after Target Corp. revealed its own breach, underscores the increasing challenges merchants face in thwarting security threats.
Neiman Marcus didn’t say whether the breach was related to the massive data theft at Target, but some security experts believe they could be part of the same scam. Nevertheless, the recent security breaches at two major retailers threaten to scare shoppers who worry about the safety of their personal data.
Ginger Reeder, spokeswoman for Dallas-based Neiman Marcus Group Ltd., said in an email Saturday that the retailer had been notified in mid-December by its credit card processor about potentially unauthorized payment activity following customer purchases at stores. On Jan. 1, a forensics firm confirmed evidence that the upscale retailer was a victim of a criminal cybersecurity intrusion and that some customers’ credit and debit cards were possibly compromised as a result.
Reeder wouldn’t estimate how many customers may be affected but said the merchant is notifying customers whose cards it has now determined were used fraudulently. Neiman Marcus, which operates more than 40 upscale stores and clearance stores, is working with the Secret Service on the breach, she said.
“We have begun to contain the intrusion and have taken significant steps to further enhance information security,” Reeder wrote.
Robert Siciliano, a security expert with McAfee, a computer security software maker, said it is possible Neiman Marcus doesn’t yet know the extent of the breach. He said he believes that the two thefts were likely committed by the same organized group, based on his experience and the fact that the incidents happened at around the same time.
“It’s a knee-jerk reaction that the security industry has right now,” he added.
Target disclosed Friday that its massive data theft was significantly more extensive and affected millions more shoppers than the company announced in December. The nation’s second largest discounter said hackers stole personal information – including names, phone numbers, email and mailing addresses – from as many as 70 million customers as part of a data breach it discovered last month.
Minneapolis-based Target announced Dec. 19 that some 40 million credit and debit card accounts had been affected by a data breach that happened from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15, just as the holiday shopping season was getting into gear.
As part of that announcement, the company said customers’ names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates, debit-card PINs and the embedded code on the magnetic strip on the back of cards had been stolen.