Home Depot CEO: Probe of possible breach continues

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Home Depot’s outgoing CEO Frank Blake told investors Thursday the nation’s largest home-improvement chain continues to investigate a potential breach at the company and reassured that customers will not be liable for any potential fraudulent charges.

In his first public comments about the issue, Blake didn’t confirm that a breach actually happened but said that Home Depot found out about the possible data theft early Tuesday.

He told investors during an address at the Goldman Sachs Global Retailing Conference on Thursday, that companies in this situation have a choice: to wait or “communicate the facts as you know them.”

“We chose the latter path,” he said.

Blake told investors that Home Depot will be activating chip-enabled checkout terminals at all of its stores by the end of the year. That technology helps makes transactions more secure.

“Cybersecurity is a major issue,” he added.

Home Depot said on Wednesday that it has hired security firms Symantec and FishNet Security to help it investigate the possible hacking.

The possible breach at Home Depot was first reported by Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security, a website that focuses on cybersecurity. Krebs said multiple banks reported “evidence that Home Depot stores may be the source of a massive new batch of stolen credit and debit cards” that went on sale on the black market earlier Tuesday.

Krebs also reported that a preliminary analysis indicates the breach may have affected all 2,200 Home Depot stores.

Hackers have broken security walls for many retailers in recent months, including Target, grocer Supervalu, restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s and the thrift store operations of Goodwill. The breaches have rattled shoppers’ confidence in the security of their personal data and pushed retailers, banks and card companies to increase security by speeding the adoption of microchips in U.S. credit and debit cards.

Target, based in Minneapolis, is still trying to get beyond its massive breach that occurred late last year and hurt sales, profits and its reputation with customers.

BY ANNE D’INNOCENZIO, AP Retail Writer

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