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Visa Gave TJX a Pass on PCI in 2005

Retailer got some slack on security compliance - and got hacked in the interim

The comedy of errors that led to TJX Companies' loss of an estimated 94.7 million credit card records isn't very funny. But as the puzzle pieces come together, it is amazing to see how many things went wrong.

Less than two weeks ago, court documents revealed that when TJX was first hacked back in 2005, it had failed to meet nine of the 12 security controls specified by the Payment Card Industry's Data Security Standard, the compliance guidelines for maintaining credit card data. (See Huge Breach Causes Little Pain at TJX.)

On Friday, a closer look at those documents revealed that Visa knew about TJX's compliance problems -- and agreed to give the retailer an extension on its PCI project until 2009.

According to a report, the credit card giant cut TJX some slack in 2005, agreeing not to impose fines on the retail giant or its official credit card processor, Fifth Third Bank, as long as they continued to "diligently pursue remediation efforts." The letter agrees to suspend fines until Dec. 31, 2008.

Unfortunately, the Dec. 29, 2005, letter from Visa arrived months after hackers had already broken into TJX systems and begun systematically sucking out credit card information from all of TJX's customers.

Visa did eventually levy $880,000 in fines on Fifth Third Bank due to TJX's sloppy compliance effort -- but not until this summer, when the horse was already out of the barn.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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