Dems call for briefing, hearing on Target hack

Congressional Democrats are increasing their call for Target to disclose how it allowed as many as 110 million customers to have their names, addresses or credit card information stolen.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who leads the panel’s Consumer Protection subcommittee, wrote the retailer on Friday to press for greater standards to safeguard consumers.

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They noted that the committee has authority over data security and “we have been advocates for data security and breach notification legislation that would better protect consumers and improve corporate responsibility. Target’s recent incident demonstrates the need for such federal legislation.”

The lawmakers asked for Target’s data security officials to give staffers a briefing on the company's investigation of the recent hack and explain what security flaws permitted the breach in the first place.

“It has been three weeks since the data breach was discovered, and new information continues to come out,” the senators wrote. “We expect that your security experts have had time to fully examine the cause and impact of the breach and will be able to provide the Committee with detailed information.”

In late December, the Minneapolis-based chain disclosed that about 40 million customers had their debit or credit card data stolen during the holiday shopping season. Since then, the company added that 70 million people may have had their names, addresses, phone numbers or other personal details stolen.

On Tuesday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, asked committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to hold a hearing with Target executives to investigate the cause of the breach. After the multiple hearings and investigations into the security of Healthcare.Gov, which Cummings noted has not been successfully hacked, it only makes sense to continue that oversight of Target, he wrote.

“You and other House Members have cited the Target breach to justify legislation relating to the Healthcare.gov website,” he wrote, referring to recent statements from Republican lawmakers about the need for strong federal data security in the wake of the Target data breach.

“As Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy [R-Calif.] stated in the context of the Healthcare.gov website: ‘Nothing can turn a life upside down more quickly than identity theft. It is our duty to do everything we can to inform Americans,’” he added.

The upscale retailer Neiman Marcus also recently disclosed that it, too, had been hacked in December, putting customers’ information at risk.

The news has raised alarms from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Legislators have said that Congress should intervene to ensure that shoppers are not left in the lurch after a data breach, and some have advocated for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Target's data security was adequate.  

- This story was updated with additional information at 1:45 p.m.