We hear about companies with many online customers being targeted by hackers all the time. So often, a Dakota State University associate professor says we've become numbed by the frequency of these breaches. But the Target case is especially troubling because the hackers swiped data from inside the store, not online.
Computer hackers bring a kind of Old West mentality when shopping for their next victims.
"Just like in the Wild West, the bank robbers went after the big banks with the big vaults of money. That's kind of that risk-reward from the hacker's perspective," Dakota State Cyber Security Associate Professor Josh Pauli said.
Josh Pauli teaches cyber-security at Dakota State University. He says the massive security breach at Target is a textbook case of a highly-sophisticated operation.
"I would be really surprised if this came out that this was a couple of college kids hacking together in their dorm room. I think this is more of an organized effort, more of an underground syndicate if you will, a group of people that are in this for big business," Pauli said.
Credit information on millions of card holders can fetch a lot of money on the black market. Pauli says the Target case should put other big retailers on alert.
"There's nothing that any of us know that makes Target any more vulnerable than Best Buy or Wal-Mart. It's just they happen to be in the cross-hairs this time," Pauli said.
Dakota State students are off for semester break. But the Target troubles should make for a good teaching moment when they return to class next month.
"Our students here at DSU will be most curious about the technical aspect of it. What was the malware? How was it introduced? What did it actually do? How did it propagate to 1800 stores," Pauli said.
Pauli doubts we'll ever know the full answer to those questions because of a concern about copycats.
Meanwhile, Target says it's working with a forensics company to investigate the breach and is looking at additional security measures to prevent this from happening again.