MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The CEO of Target is finally speaking out after the massive security breach that impacted millions of Americans over the holidays.

He’s defending Target and how the company has handled the breach, and said the company is working now to gain back the trust of many shoppers.

The breach compromised personal data of up to 70 million customers. Up to 40 million had their credit and debit card data stolen.

Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel is doing TV interviews and the company even bought full-page ad space in some major newspapers to include an apology letter to customers.

Shoppers who saw the page-long apology were torn. Some said it was a step in the right direction.

“I think this is nice, because now they’re saying they didn’t live up to their responsibility,” one shopper said.

Others thought it was too little, too late.

“I just think it’s silly, period,” another shopper said.

But a lot of damage has been done as nearly one in every four Americans could have been impacted.

The personal information hackers stole includes names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.

Reuters reports smaller breaches on at least three other well-known U.S. retailers may have also taken place using similar methods. Neiman Marcus has also come forward as victim of cyber-attack over the holidays.

Steinhafel said while he’s confident Target is now safe he said there’s a vulnerability throughout the country when it comes to consumer safety.

“Technology that’s being used today is analog technology and we are operating in a digital world,” he said.

Target’s CEO says malware had been installed store sale registers, but the company and authorities are still investigating what happened.

“We don’t know the full extent of what transpired, but what we do know was there was malware installed on our point of sale registers,” said Steinhafel. “That much we’ve established. We removed that malware so that we could provide a safe and secure shopping environment. This investigation is ongoing and it’s going to take some time before we really understand the full extent of what’s happened.”

WEB EXTRA: Read Steinhafel’s Full Letter (.PDF)

The company first learned about the cyber-attack on Dec. 15, and informed the public four days later.

Steinhafel says that was really lightning speed for them – as they were preparing call centers and resources for people before informing them, and understanding what happened.

Steinhafel said the United States is lagging behind Europe in retail technology.

Switching to a chip technology rather than the current magnet strip system would make it harder for thieves to pull PIN numbers — and he’s working to get others in the retail industry on board.

“I’m very optimistic — by end of 2015 this will be the standard in the U.S.,” he said.

Steinhafel said to change your PIN if you have any doubts about your account.

Customers can now have access to one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

For information on that free credit monitoring, click here.


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