By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Congress began a series of hearings Monday before a Senate banking subcommittee into the massive data breach at Target and other retailers.

Lawmakers grilled the Secret Service about when Target told them about the breach, and another hearing is slated for Tuesday. That’s when Target CFO John Mulligan will be in the hot seat.

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On Monday, members of Congress focused on whether companies, including Target, delayed informing law enforcement officials and the public. They also focused on what kinds of tougher laws can be enacted to protect consumers.

One of the laws Congress is considering would require companies to report breaches immediately to both consumers and law enforcement.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) pressed the Secret Service on when Target told them about the breach.

“The Target breach is still an ongoing investigation,” said agent Bill Noonan of the Secret Service.

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A consumer activist testified that Target was partly to blame for the breach and should have had better safeguards in place.

The Secret Service, which has not yet made any arrests, says it’s clear these recent data breaches are coming from one part of the world.

“Many of these international, transnational cybercriminals are attacking us from eastern Europe,” Noonan said. “I don’t want to say it’s one country versus another country…what we are seeing is that, largely, the cyber-criminal world is using the Russian speaking language.”

It’s clear from Monday’s hearing that when Target’s CFO testifies there will be a lot of questions about when Target knew about the breach and when it reported it.

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Other topics that surfaced were chip requirements for safer credit cards and tougher penalties for cyber thieves.

Esme Murphy