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Target breach may be work of organized crime

Tuesday - 2/25/2014, 1:18pm  ET

target (AP)
The data breach at Target occurred as the holiday shopping season kicked into high gear. (AP/Steven Senne)

Several organized elements seen in Target breach

CBS Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Atkisson on WTOP.

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WASHINGTON -- The Target security breach that affected up to 40 million credit and debit cards in December may be the work of organized crime, CBS News reports.

"It has all the hallmarks of an organized elements," CBS Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Atkisson tells WTOP.

Atkisson says her sources say there are several organized components of the breach.

"It doesn't mean a specific crime family, that they know of, is to blame, but they say there is certainly much more than a Russia kid in a basement hacking into the system," she says.

Michael Sutton, a cyber security expert with Zscaler who's monitoring the Target case, tells CBS whoever breached Target's security had to have "some reconnaissance up front to understand the network that was being targeted, the hardware and software that they were going after."

The amount of coordination involved in the breach indicates the hackers had a ground operation that helped get credentials to get into Target's headquarters in Minneapolis, Atkisson says.

Additionally, someone systematically marketed the stolen cards on the black market, she says.

Other organized elements involve the stealing of about a dozen cellphones of Target IT employees in a 24-hour period after the breach.

Atkisson says the thefts indicate "there were people on the ground in Minneapolis."

The thieves also used Kaptoxa, malware that was placed on hundreds of point of sale systems to collect Target transactions.

Atkisson says a "trained programmer" wrote the code for the malware, which was sold on the open market for less than $2,000. The FBI warned that because the malware was openly available, additional retailers could be targeted.

Sutton tells CBS the theft and others like it at other retailers, including Neiman Marcus, may not be the work of the same group.

With the Target breach, investigators have not determined whether the breach originated in the U.S. or overseas, Atkisson says.

Watch the CBS story on the breach in this video:

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