Target Corp.’s executive ranks have suffered their first casualty since hackers stole credit-card numbers and other personal data of millions of the retailer’s shoppers last year.
The nation’s second-largest discounter told The Associated Press that Beth Jacob, who has overseen everything from Target’s website to its internal computer systems as chief information officer since 2008, has resigned. The company said it will search for an interim CIO.
The departure, which was effective Wednesday, comes as Target works to overhaul some of its divisions that handle security and technology after the massive data breach. Target said the resignation was Jacob’s idea, but some analysts speculate that the executive has faced intense scrutiny as the company has tried to restore its reputation among investors and shoppers.
“People are questioning Target’s security, and she was the fall guy,” said Walter Loeb, a New York-based independent retail consultant.
The resignation points to the changing roles and demands on CIOs. They’ve long assumed a behind-the-scenes position overseeing not only technology, but the overall safety and security of company systems. But security experts say more is being demanded of them as the public becomes more aware of big security breaches.
“Now, they have to take on an active role,” said Heather Bearfield, partner in the technology and assurance group at accounting firm Marcum LLP. “You can’t sit back and rely on the infrastructure.”
Target disclosed Dec. 19 that a data breach compromised 40 million credit- and debit-card accounts between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. Then on Jan. 10 it said hackers also stole personal information — including names, phone numbers and email and mailing addresses — from as many as 70 million customers.
When all is said and done, Target’s breach could eclipse the biggest known data theft at a retailer: TJX Cos. in 2007 disclosed a breach of customer information that compromised more than 90 million records at its T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods stores.
Target has said it believes hackers broke into its network by infiltrating the computers of a vendor. Then the hackers installed malicious software in the checkout system for Target’s estimated 1,800 U.S. stores.
In the wake of the breach, Target has been working to make changes. The company is accelerating its $100 million plan to roll out chip-based credit-card technology, which experts say is more secure than traditional magnetic-stripe cards.
The company also is changing technology and security duties within the company.