Data breaches now a fact of life?

Future data breaches at major retailers like Target are inevitable, according to a top Democratic senator.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), the head of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, said that attacks that steal consumers’ data are a “fact of life” in the 21st century.

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“Probably everybody here has either shopped at Target or knew someone who shopped at Target,” he told a meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. “The thing with that -- I know that some people beat up on Target, but the truth of it is that can happen to any of those companies and it has. You see that over and other.”

“You’re going to see more and more of it as we go because it’s just a fact of life right now," he added.

Late last year, Target revealed that it had been hacked during the holiday shopping season. The company eventually revealed that more than 100 million people may have had their personal or financial data stolen in the breach. 

Similar possible breaches have since been reported at a number of other stores, including Neiman Marcus, the craft retailer Michaels and a series of hotel chains.

Lawmakers have been quick to unveil new legislation to prevent data breaches and to require that consumers be notified if their data may have been exposed.

Congress now has a “sense of urgency” to pass some data protection law, Pryor said.

Pryor, along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced the Data Security and Breach Notification Act in late January.

Pryor on Tuesday described the legislation as a “smart, commonsense bill.”

“We think it’s going to get big bipartisan support -- not just in the Commerce Committee, but in the Senate. I think this is a bill that has a real chance of passage,” he said.

“As these stories continue to accumulate and [lawmakers’] constituents are involved, sometimes their state's companies are involved, they now have much more of a sense of urgency than they did before. So the time to act on that is now.”

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