Target Speeds Move to EMV Cards
Target has vowed to do what it can to speed the US’s transition to more secure payment card technology.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Target Chief Financial Officer, John Mulligan, said that one of the company’s responses to the massive data breach that impacted tens of millions of its customers in late 2013 would be to equip all 1,800 of its U.S. stores with card readers able to process EMV card transactions by the beginning of 2015. The new timeline announced by Mulligan is over six months earlier than Target’s previously stated goal for implementing smart card technology in its stores. EMV cards, also known as smart cards, are considered far more difficult for hackers to compromise than the magnetic stripe technology currently used by most credit and debit cards.
Additionally, Mulligan told lawmakers that Target’s own REDcards will also transition entirely to EMV technology. “Updating payment card technology and strengthening protections for American consumers is a shared responsibility and requires a collective and coordinated response,” Mulligan said. “On behalf of Target, I am committing that we will be an active part of that solution.”
Target is undoubtedly motivated to speed up its move to EMV technology by the avalanche of negative attention and subsequent hit to its profits caused by the data theft. Still, most security experts believe it’s the right move. EMV technology is a far tougher nut for data thieves to crack than magnetic strip technology, which has long been the security norm in the U.S. Because EMV cards contain a microchip that must be authenticated with a personal identification number – hence the technology’s other name, chip and PIN – they are far less vulnerable to identity fraudsters than magnetic swipes.
In countries around Europe and throughout the globe, the fact that EMV cards are standard has reduced the amount of identity theft significantly. The replacement of magnetic strip technology with EMVs certainly won’t end data theft altogether. As Mulligan noted in his Senate testimony, Target cannot force the whole country to embrace EMVs. It will require broad support from other retailers and card issuers for all U.S. consumers to get the benefit of the elevated protection offered by EMV cards.