'Ethical hacker' sheds light on Target data breach

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - The bank of numbers and letters are indecipherable to the naked eye, but Vinny Troia knows what they mean. They are the pieces the hackers want.

They got data just like that when hackers stole Target customer information in November. The company said it happened during a two week period over Black Friday, and 40 million people were affected. Now the company says that number is up to 110 million.

"This is what everybody has been saying wouldn't happen to them just happened to target. This is the absolute worst case scenario and it will end up being the biggest breach in history when we are done with it," Troia said.

Troia is an ethical hacker and information security expert at Night Lion Security in St. Louis. Businesses hire him to break into their computer systems to find the holes and fix them before the hackers find them.

He's even worked as a contractor for the Department of Defense.

Troia said Target's breach likely happened with one email.

"A worm got into the computer and opened a door for the hackers to get though," he said.

He said it could cost the retailer $10 billion to fix it if forensic investigators can even find it.

"It's like looking for a needle in a haystack," he said.

Troia said most companies don't spend the money to beef up their information security. He thinks it's a big mistake.

"If a Target employee had a malicious email, they had their software up to date, there wouldn't have been a breach," Troia said.

His advice to customers is to change a debit or credit card you used at Target in the last few months even if the bank didn't tell you about fraudulent charges.

The hackers know a lot of people are getting new cards so you could get a bogus email asking you to verify you got your card. Troia said don't open the attachment in the email and don't give anybody your personal information by email or on the phone. Banks will never ask you to give them personal information that way. He also said install security updates on your computer, they are the best defense against the hackers, even more effective than the virus stopping software you can buy.


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