Last week, a letter landed in my email inbox from Gregg Steinhafel, the chief executive of Target. He wanted me to know that there was a decent likelihood that some of my personal information had been stolen by criminals who had “forced their way into our systems,” as Steinhafel put it, and pulled off one of the biggest data breaches in history.
I’m not a regular Target shopper, so I had to think about this for a minute. Then I remembered: In mid-December, while marooned in Houston after missing a connecting flight to Rio de Janeiro, I went to a Target store to buy some clean clothes. I paid with my debit card, which I swiped through the little “point of sale” machine, and then entered my passcode — something I probably do a dozen times a day. The very ordinariness of the transaction is partly why it hadn’t stood out in my memory.