Retail stores commit to cyber info sharing

More than 50 major retailers like the Gap, Safeway, Target and J.C. Penny are getting together for a new push to fight hackers.

The companies are taking part in a forum to share information about online criminals among themselves and with officias at the FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and elsewhere.

The initiative comes months after a massive data breach at Target exposed millions of shoppers’ data, and as part of a growing concern about the threat posed by hackers online.

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“We have seen a sharp increase in the number of malicious actors attempting to access personal information or compromise the systems we all rely on, in the retail industry and elsewhere,” said Phyllis Schneck, head of cybersecurity at the DHS, in a statement.

The new effort, she added “will further enhance DHS’s collaboration with this important sector of the American economy with information and resources that can help companies keep their networks and the information stored on them safe and secure.”

Companies and data security advocates across government have said that better sharing of information is crucial to being able to stop data breaches before they start.

The retailers's effort, announced on Wednesday, comes after an April announcement from the Obama administration that companies that share information with each other won’t be in violation of federal antitrust laws.

Sandy Kennedy, head of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, described the new plan as “a comprehensive resource for retailers to receive and share threat information, advance leading practices and develop research relevant to fighting cyber crimes.”

The trade group first launched a cybersecurity and data privacy initiative in January. In addition to the information sharing push, it’s also focusing on educating companies about ways to protect themselves and coordinating on research to learn about evolving threats.