Breach Update: Forever 21 Stored 5-Year-Old Transaction Data

Written by Evan Schuman
September 25th, 2008

New information released by Forever 21 confirms that the almost 100,000 credit and debit cards accessed from the chain in a breach included transactions from 2003 through 2005, which were stored on a corporate data center, apparently in violation of PCI rules.

"The files were inadvertently retained within other data files and this was not uncovered by the assessor," said a Forever 21 statement issued to StorefrontBacktalk in response to written questions.

Unlike some of Forever 21’s fellow retail chain victims in the so-called TJX Breach case—including TJX, BJ’s Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority and DSW—Forever 21 now says that wardriving (wireless interception) was not involved in its breach and that the data was accessed directly from the corporate data center.

"The numbers were not stolen at the point-of-sale. Stored data was illegally accessed from the corporate data center. The data was taken in January 2008, but the data was related to transactions occurring in years 2003 to 2005," the statement said.

The older data came from a single store in Fresno, Calif., raising the possibility that it was test data that had been used for a system trial and that it had been long forgotten.

Forever 21’s statement also said that neither the chain’s internal security mechanisms nor outside allies (credit card issuers, issuing banks, etc.) identified that the chain had been breached at all.

"The United States Secret Service contacted us in Spring of 2008 indicating that our name was among a list of retail stores which were thought to be potential targets. Neither the monthly vulnerability scan conducted by our outside audit company nor an internal investigation conducted as a result of the contact revealed signs of a breach," the statement said. It wasn’t until Aug. 11—some six days after the feds unsealed the federal charges naming Forever 21 and other retail chains as victims—that "the Secret Service was able to provide us with information that enabled us to confirm a breach."


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.