On May 5, 2014, Target announced the resignation of its CEO, Gregg Steinhafel, in large part because of the massive and embarrassing customer data breach that occurred just before the 2013 U.S. holiday season kicked into high gear. After a security breach or incident, the CISO (or whoever is in charge of security) or the CIO, or both, are usually axed. Someone’s head has to roll. But the resignation of the CEO is unusual, and I believe this marks an important turning point in the visibility, prioritization, importance, and funding of information security. It’s an indication of just how much:
Security directly affects the top and bottom line. Early estimates of the cost of Target's 2013 holiday security breach indicate a potential customer churn of 1% to 5%, representing anywhere from $30 million to $150 million in lost net income. Target's stock fell 11% after it disclosed the breach in mid-December, but investors pushed shares up nearly 7% on the news of recovering sales. In February 2014, the company reported a 46% decline in profits due to the security breach.
Poor security will tank your reputation. The last thing Target needed was to be a permanent fixture of the 24-hour news cycle during the holiday season. Sure, like other breached companies, Target’s reputation will likely bounce back but it will take a lot of communication, investment, and other efforts to regain customer trust. The company announced last week that it will spend $100 million to adopt chip-and-PIN technology.