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Lawsuits begin to fly over Target’s data security breach

Multiple data security risks; Montevideo “militia man” says he’s not dangerous; Minnesota toughens radon disclosure law; family cuts entertainments costs by dropping satellite TV; and more.

REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The heist of 40-plus million Target customers’ data will keep lawyers, investigators and security pundits busy for months if not years. Mike Snider of USA Today says: “Consumer frustration and outrage over the Target credit card breach is moving from Facebook and Twitter to the courts and state governments even as the stolen accounts are flooding the black market. Three class-action lawsuits have been filed in the wake of the theft of data on about 40 million credit and debit card accounts of shoppers at Target from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15. More than $5 million in damages is being sought in the cases, two of which were filed in California and one in Oregon.”

For Mother Jones, Kevin Drum writes: “[T]hese breaches are a pain in the ass for card-issuing banks and for Target itself, and it will end up costing them some money. But mainly it’s a pain in the ass for consumers. And if this breach causes you to be a victim of identity theft, you can be sure that neither Target nor your bank nor your credit rating agency will give you so much as the time of day. It’ll be up to you to reclaim your life even though it wasn’t your fault in any way. It’s a disgrace.

A FAQ put up by Tim Swift at the Baltimore Sun says: “Is there any way to protect ourselves from these data breaches? It’s really the world we live in now. There have been more than 600 breaches this year. You always want to be cautious about who you give your information to. You don’t want to give information to just any website. But when you are dealing with legitimate businesses like Target, there is a always risk. When it comes to data, companies have to be perfect 100 percent of the time, a hacker just has to be right once.”

Shelly Banjo for the Wall Street Journal reports: “In the wake of a massive data breach, Target Corp. may have suffered another blow — reduced customer traffic over one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year. The number of transactions at Target slipped 3% to 4% compared with the final weekend before Christmas last year, estimates retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners LLC. By contrast, transactions at other retailers were strong. A spokeswoman for Target declined to comment specifically on this weekend’s results, saying the retailer reports sales on a quarterly basis.”

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Steve Johnson of the San Jose Mercury News writes: “Amid reports Friday that credit and debit-card information stolen from up to 40 million Target customers already is being sold on the black market, security experts warned that such attacks not only will continue but could worsen. … Japanese security firm Trend Micro predicted “we’re going to have one or more events like this every month,” said J.D. Sherry, the company’s vice president of technology and solutions. He noted that one reason for the grim assessment was that many retailers still use Windows XP as their operating system, Because the software is a dozen years old and will no longer be fortified with security updates from Microsoft after April, he added, ‘this is a big problem.’ “

 For the AP, Jonathan Fahey writes: “The U.S. is the juiciest target for hackers hunting credit card information. And experts say incidents like the recent data theft at Target’s stores will get worse before they get better. That’s in part because U.S. credit and debit cards rely on an easy-to-copy magnetic strip on the back of the card, which stores account information using the same technology as cassette tapes. ‘We are using 20th century cards against 21st century hackers,’ says Mallory Duncan, general counsel at the National Retail Federation.”

Despite everything you see … Amy Forliti of the AP reports: “A Minnesota militia member charged in what the FBI once called a ‘terror plot’ to blow up the Montevideo police station allegedly told authorities in May that even though he had bombs, he was not a violent person and was using the Internet to investigate bad and dangerous people, according to a document unsealed Friday. … He has pleaded not guilty to four counts, including being a felon in possession of a firearm and counts related to the possession of two Molotov cocktails, two ‘black powder nail devices; and a pipe bomb.” In other words … just an average duck hunter.

With the new year comes new laws. Including this one. Lorna Benson of MPR writes: “[A] new radon disclosure law could have big consequences for Minnesota. Currently, sellers have to report whether they are aware of a radon problem in their home. Starting January 1, sellers will be asked more specifically if their home has ever been tested for the toxic gas. Public health officials hope the answer to this yes-or-no question will spur more buyers and sellers to pursue radon testing.” MinnPost’s Joe Kimball offers an overview of other new state laws here.

The St. Cloud Times’ Kevin Allenspach has a piece built around a “cord-cutting” family: “The Jonaks got rid of their satellite dish about a year ago at their St. Cloud home in an effort to save money. … Wall Street media analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson recently released a report that shows cable operators lost 687,000 subscribers nationally during the third quarter of this year — a much steeper decline than in 2011-12. The cable industry still controls about 55 percent of the pay-TV market in the United States … the Jonaks’ entertainment now comes online.  … They have to go without some sports, and they often watch their favorite series later than they aired on network television, but the family has also shaved as much as three-quarters of its monthly TV expense.” But … but … how do they live without “Thursday Night Football”?

And with that, 2013 is a wrap. Happy holidays and happy new year. Thanks for reading.