The extent of the Home Depot security breach is just coming to light, and it does not paint a reassuring picture for patrons of the big-box retailer.
Fifty-six million customers were affected, which, according to Bloomberg, gives Home Depot the dubious distinction of topping Target’s massive credit card breach during last year's holidays, when hackers stole 40 million credit cards.
And Bloomberg Businessweek reported Home Depot ignored internal advice to activate a security program designed by Symantec that would have added a layer of security protection at terminals where customers swipe their credit and debit cards at its 2,226 stores. The hackers used a custom-made software program to penetrate the Home Depot system at the cash registers.
Home Depot CEO Frank Blake's said his customers would not be liable for the fraudulent charges and added, "From the time this investigation began, our guiding principle has been to put our customers first, and we will continue to do so."
The do-it-yourself home center became aware of the breach two weeks ago, but this is the first time it has openly discussed the number of customers affected by the hack. The ordeal will cost Home Depot an estimated $62 million, Bloomberg reported, including call center staffing and legal costs. By contrast, Target reportedly spent $160 million to clean up the mess left by hackers, which decreased the discounter's foot traffic and sales.
Home Depot joins a growing list of retailers who have been targeted by hackers that includes not only Target but also Neiman Marcus, P.F. Chang's, Super Valu and Michaels.