Target Credit Card Breach Impacts Web Performance

Dec. 19, 2013 – Dotcom-Monitor, a web performance monitoring company, detected a short spike in connection times to the website that occurred on Dec. 18, 2013 at approximately 12:30 pm CST. The spike in connection time at the website corresponded to widespread announcements in the media that Target had suffered a massive data breach. According to news sources, such as the Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times and others, Target credit card systems were hacked and user information was exposed, including  credit card numbers, names, addresses – to unknown perpetrators.

Target Credit Card Breach Announcement

Target acknowledged the target credit card breach and target debit card hack in the following carefully-worded statement. In part the Dec. 19, 2013 Target statement noted:

“Target today confirmed it is aware of unauthorized access to payment card data that may have impacted certain guests making credit and debit card purchases in its U.S. stores. Target is working closely with law enforcement and financial institutions, and has identified and resolved the issue.” Target stock (TGT) was down 2.2% as of mid-afternoon Dec. 19, 2013.

Target Credit Card Hacked – Secondary Impacts

Moreover,  the Dec. 18 server connection time spike to 1.5 seconds at was very short-lived on Wednesday, and perhaps not atypical.  Notably, the average connection time  after the announcement of the Target breach was only lightly above its 0.63-second December average following the Target credit card hack news to a 0.66-second connection time from monitoring locations throughout the United States.

Also, on Dec. 19, 2013 Dotcom-Monitor detected “Connection time out” errors for users attempting to connect to the online portal where owners of  Target Red Cards log-in to manage their accounts. This temporary outage may well have been related to the announcement of the Target credit card data breach resulting in a significant increase in user traffic to the Target Red Card log-in portal.

Target Credit Card Breach
Users experienced “Connection time out” errors when attempting to connect to the Target Red Card online portal.

Tools for managing the Impact of Online Outages and Errors

As online performance issues at brand name companies are increasingly common, and perhaps unavoidable,  most companies have tools and strategies to manage the impact of downtime events. These tools increasingly focus on enabling the affected companies to coordinate technical factors of an outage, or breach with public relations as well as the user’s experience. For example, many large companies are using a tool, like UserView Monitoring which monitors a browser’s interaction with a web application and captures a video of a user’s experience on that web application when errors, downtime, or website problems occur. The monitoring and accompanying web page element-level trending and analytics provides information for the technical team, while the synced playback of the recorded video of the error occurring allowing the eCommerce team to coordinate with the public relations department in understand exactly what users’ experienced during the error event.

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