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Home Depot Investigates Possible Data Breach

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Home Depot is looking into "unusual activity" that may be the latest retailer to suffer a credit card data breach. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Home Depot is looking into “unusual activity” that may be the latest retailer to suffer a credit card data breach. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK — Home Depot may be the latest retailer to suffer a credit card data breach.

The Atlanta-based home improvement retailer told The Associated Press Tuesday that it is looking into “unusual activity” and that working with both banks and law enforcement.

“Protecting our customers’ information is something we take extremely seriously, and we are aggressively gathering facts at this point while working to protect customers,” said Paula Drake, a spokeswoman at Home Depot, declining to elaborate. She said the retailer would notify customers immediately if it confirms a breach.

Shares of Home Depot Inc. fell $1.88, or 2 percent, to close at $91.15.

Many retailers have had security walls broken in recent months, including Target, grocery store chain Supervalu, P.F. Chang’s and the thrift store operations of Goodwill. The rash of breaches has 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 into U.S. credit and debit cards.

Supports say chip cards are safer because, unlike magnetic strip cards that transfer a credit card number when they are swiped at a point-of-sale terminal, chip cards use a one-time code that moves between the chip and the retailer’s register. The result is a transfer of data that is useless to anyone except the parties involved. Chip cards are also nearly impossible to copy, experts say.

The possible data 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.”

Krebs said that the party responsible for the Home Depot breach may be the same group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers suspected in the Target breach late last year. Krebs broke the news of Target’s breach.

Target Corp., 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. It has been overhauling its security department and systems and is accelerating its $100 million plan to roll out chip-based credit card technology in all of its nearly 1,800 stores.

New payment terminals will appear in stores by this month, six months ahead of schedule. In April, the retailer announced it teamed up with MasterCard to issue branded Target payment cards equipped with chip technology by early in 2015.

In its data breach, 40 million credit and debit card accounts were compromised and hackers stole personal information from as many as 70 million customers.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, is sending customers who have a store credit card a chip-enabled MasterCard, while its Sam’s Club division introduced a chip-enabled MasterCard in June. The company has chip-enabled check-out terminals in 4,600 stores, and terminals in the remaining U.S stores will be activated before the end of the year.

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(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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