People shop at Target store during Black Friday sales in the Brooklyn borough of New York
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Secret Service on Monday urged U.S. lawmakers to do more to prevent the types of cyber thefts of consumer information that recently have hit Target Corp and other major retailers.
"Legislative action could help to improve the nation's cybersecurity, reduce regulatory costs on U.S. companies, and strengthen law enforcement's ability to conduct effective investigations," said William Noonan, a top agent with the Secret Service's cyber operations branch.
Noonan testified at a Senate Banking subcommittee hearing on safeguarding consumer financial data, the first of a series of panels scheduled this week in response to the Target breach and other incidents.
Target, the No. 3 U.S. retailer, was hit by a massive cyber theft over the holiday shopping period. Some 40 million credit and debit card records were stolen, along with 70 million other records with customer information such as addresses and telephone numbers.
While the Secret Service has been the lead player in the Target investigation, Noonan discussed its information-sharing efforts on cyber crime with other federal agencies as well as international law enforcement bodies such as Interpol.
Noonan focused on the transnational nature of cyber crimes, including "network intrusions, hacking attacks, malicious software, and account takeovers leading to significant data breaches affecting every sector of the world economy."
"The recently reported data breaches of Target and Neiman Marcus are just the most recent, well-publicized examples of this decade-long trend," Noonan said.
Luxury department store operator Neiman Marcus in late January said that about 1.1 million customer payment cards may have been exposed during a data breach that occurred from July 16 to October 30 last year.
Congress has been wrestling for years with proposals for legislation on data security, but has been unable to reach agreement. There is, for example, no national standard to govern how and when businesses that suffer consumer data breaches much advise their customers and federal agencies.
On Tuesday senior officials from Target and Neiman Marcus are scheduled to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about recent data breaches.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Leslie Adler)