Target CIO Resignation Puts Retail CIOs on Alert

Target CIO Beth Jacob has apparently fallen on her sword in the wake of the massive security breach in mid-December that compromised 40 million debit and credit cards and swept national headlines. Her resignation was rendered this week effective immediately.

Target CIO Beth Jacob

"If you look at the history of other large data breaches, turnover at the top of the IT shop is not unusual," says retail IT consultant Cathy Hotka.

Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel says the retailer is now looking outside the company for a CIO to succeed Jacob and help overhaul its network security, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Ironically, Jacob, who has a sterling reputation among retail CIOs, was thought of as a great hire by Target in 2008, Hotka says.

Target's security incident -- from the sophisticated breach to Steinhafel penning a mea culpa open letter to Target customers to running apologetic ads in the Wall Street Journal and other major publications to Jacob's resignation -- is a watershed moment for retail CIOs. They are now faced with rethinking their data security strategy.

[Related: 5 Cloud Computing Trends That Will Be Big in 2013]

The kind of breach that occurred at Target was highly sophisticated. Hackers slipped their software into Target's computer systems via credentials stolen from one of Target's vendors, reported the Wall Street Journal. The software eventually made its way to checkout stations and began amassing credit card data.

Did Target's CIO Stand a Chance?

"The people who are responsible for these kinds of breaches are well-organized, criminal enterprises," Hotka says. "If you went to go up to a bunch of retail CIOs and asked them, 'Could this have happened to you?' the answer would be, yes."

CIOs are put in a tough position because they're not given adequate security funding, Hotka says. She recalls five years ago when the CIO of apparel and home fashions retailer TJX Companies had asked for additional data security resources and didn't get them. A massive security breach followed, compromising millions of credit card numbers. TJX Companies agreed to pay $40.9 million to resolve potential claims by banks.

Given the growing sophistication of attacks, retail CIOs must now reconsider whether or not managing the risk in-house is wise. As Jacob's resignation shows, a retail CIO is culpable yet might not have the know-how or resources to protect the company.

So should retail CIOs outsource data security to the experts?

"I think at this stage it's not unreasonable," Hotka says.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at

Read more about security in CIO's Security Drilldown.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Technology Topics | SecurityTarget CIO resignsBeth Jacob resignssecurityBeth JacobTechnology TopicsTarget data breachTargetretail CIOs

More about AppleFacebookGoogleWall Street

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Tom Kaneshige

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place