News Wrap: Target says stolen PIN number data is believed to be secure

December 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The giant retailer Target confirmed today that hackers stole encrypted pin numbers during a major data breach that began at Thanksgiving. Some 40 million accounts are potentially affected.

Target said it believes the encryption will keep the personal identification numbers safe.

We get more now from Jim Finkle of the Reuters news service in Boston.

Jim Finkle, welcome. First of all, what is the risk with the theft of these pin numbers?  How is that different from losing other credit information?

JIM FINKLE, Reuters: You know, Judy, there may actually be no additional risk, because, as you mentioned, the numbers are encrypted.

The encryption algorithms that they use are so sophisticated that nobody can break them. The issue here, I think, that this highlights is a couple of things. Target originally gave us the impression that pins were not taken, encrypted or not. So that suggests that either they didn’t have a handle as to what happened or they weren’t being completely forthright.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And why would that be?

JIM FINKLE: I can think that — well, there’s a couple of reasons.

First of all, it is very difficult to figure out what happened in a breach of this size. But in terms of not being forthright, you know, it was the Christmas holiday season. And I think they wanted to keep their — they didn’t want to alarm customers. They worried about potential litigation. And they are also worried about regulatory and congressional investigations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And there’s still other information, though, that was stolen, in addition to these pin numbers that is out there.

JIM FINKLE: Yes, sure.

All the information on the magnetic stripe on the back of your credit card was stolen. And that can be used to create fake credit cards. Now, it’s possible that some people’s credit — not credit card — bank accounts have been drained, and we’re still trying to figure out how that happened.

It may be that they got the pin numbers another way. With a pin number, you can access somebody’s bank account. So, you know, what I was talking about at the beginning about them not having all the information, about them not being forthright, we still have to find out what’s going on with that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, just quickly, what should Target customers be doing right now?

JIM FINKLE: If you have gotten notification that your bank account or credit card was compromised, I would ask the bank to replace it.

Some of them are saying that’s necessary, but I have been told by everybody who is knowledgeable that that is what you should do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Finkle with Reuters, we thank you.

JIM FINKLE: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. National Security Agency has won a round in the fight over surveillance. A federal district judge in New York ruled today that bulk collection of phone records is legal in the fight against terrorism.

In a written opinion, Judge William Pauley said, “This blunt tool only works because it collects everything.”

Earlier this month, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the surveillance is probably unconstitutional.

A powerful car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon, killed six people today, and wounded more than 70. The dead included Mohamad Chatah, a former ambassador to the United States and the target of the bombing. We will have an on-the-ground report from Beirut right after the news summary.

In Afghanistan, a suicide car bomber killed three international troops in Kabul. The target was a military convoy about half-a-mile from a NATO base. So far this year, 151 coalition troops have died in Afghanistan, most of them Americans.

There was talk today of ending the fighting in South Sudan. The government agreed to a truce after a summit of East African leaders in Nairobi, Kenya. Back in Juba, the U.S. envoy to South Sudan, Donald Booth, said the country’s president confirmed it to him.

DONALD BOOTH, U.S. Special Envoy to South Sudan: He is moving forward to arrange a cessation of hostilities throughout the country in conjunction with increasing the ability to move humanitarian relief to the people of South Sudan who have been trapped by the fighting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, though, the rebel leader said conditions for a truce were not in place. He wasn’t invited to the Nairobi meeting. In the meantime, the United Nations estimated more than 120,000 people have been displaced in South Sudan since ethnic fighting broke out nearly two weeks ago.

Two more African Union peacekeepers have been killed in the Central African Republic. The soldiers from the Republic of Congo were shot dead overnight. Six peacekeepers from Chad were killed a day earlier. The violence in the Central African Republic has been building since a coup last March.

The head of Thailand’s army urged restraint today by both sides in the country’s political crisis. And he issued a warning. The commander spoke a day after police and protesters battled in the streets of Bangkok. Two people were killed and more than 140 others were injured. The army commander deplored the violence, and he left open the possibility of a military coup.

GEN. PRAYUTH CHAN-OCHA, Thai Army (through interpreter): The door is neither open nor closed. Anything can happen. It all depends on the situation. The people should support the army because we’re trying to do the right thing. We’re trying to avoid using force. We’re trying to use peaceful ways such as negotiations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Protesters have appealed to the army to intervene in their two-month battle to oust the government.

Reports of sexual assaults in the U.S. military increased more than 50 percent in the latest fiscal year. The Associated Press obtained initial data that there were more than 5,000 such reports for the 12 months ending in September. Pentagon officials say the spotlight put on the problem this year has made victims more willing to come forward.

On Wall Street today, it was a quiet close to Christmas week. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped a point to close at 16,478. The Nasdaq fell 10 points to close at 4,156. For the week, the Dow gained 1.6 percent; the Nasdaq rose 1.3 percent.