Which has more stores in the U.S.: Target or Home Depot? It might surprise you to learn that as of the end of fiscal year 2013, the winner of that faceoff was in fact Home Depot, which had 1,977 U.S. locations, as opposed to Target's 1,795. And that might help explain why a newly discovered data breach at the home improvement chain threatens to exceed the one that compromised the credit and debit card information of about 40 million people who shopped at Target.
Brian Krebs at Krebs on Security is reporting that Home Depot might be the victim of a recent and massive data breach tied to a new batch of stolen credit and debit cards that hit the black market Tuesday morning. Paula Drake, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, told Krebs that the company is "looking into some unusual activity" with the help of banks and law enforcement. While the information is far from complete, Krebs said that early analysis suggests the theft could have been carried out by the same Russian and Ukrainian hackers that struck Target:
Several banks contacted by this reporter said they believe this breach may extend back to late April or early May 2014. If that is accurate — and if even a majority of Home Depot stores were compromised — this breach could be many times larger than Target, which had 40 million credit and debit cards stolen over a three-week period.
The Target breach, which at last count affected the credit and debit cards of 40 million people and the personal information (names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, etc.) of 70 million, has had far-reaching consequences for the retailer. The security lapse sent several high-ranking executives packing, including former chief executive Gregg Steinhafel. Traffic to stores has declined for seven straight quarters and in its latest earnings report Target cut its outlook for a second time this year as profits fell 62 percent.
Shares of Home Depot slipped about 2 percent to $91.15 in afternoon trading on reports of a possible hack. Should the data breach wind up matching or exceeding last year's breach at Target, they'll likely have a lot further to fall.