By  on January 14, 2014

WASHINGTON — Congressional scrutiny of a massive data breach potentially affecting more than 100 million of Target Corp.’s customers widened on Tuesday.

Two U.S. senators released a letter they sent to Gregg Steinhafel, Target’s president and chief executive officer, seeking answers as to how the hacking happened and requesting a briefing from the company’s security team.

Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D., W. Va.), who is chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), who heads a Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, sent a letter to Steinhafel on Friday, made public Tuesday, calling the breach “one of the nation’s biggest data breaches in recent memory.”

Target announced before Christmas that financial information, including credit card information of 40 million of its customers who shopped its U.S. stores between Black Friday and Dec. 15, was compromised.

On Friday, the Minneapolis-based retailer reported it had discovered as a part of its ongoing internal probe that certain customer data separate from credit card information was stolen, potentially affecting an additional estimated 70 million consumers who might have had their names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses stolen.

“It has been three weeks since the data breach was discovered, and new information continues to come out,” the two senators wrote. “We expect that your security experts have had time to fully examine the cause and impact of the breach and will be able to provide the committee with detailed information.”

As Target scrambled to deal with the fallout, Neiman Marcus announced late Friday that it too had been hit by a credit card security breach, though the retailer did not disclose how many customers were potentially affected.

Rockefeller and McCaskill are calling for federal legislation to address the issue.

“We have been advocates for data security and breach notification legislation that would better protect consumers and improve corporate responsibility,” the two senators said in the letter. “Target’s recent incident demonstrates the need for such federal legislation.”

The senators’ letter followed calls for a Congressional probe by House Democrats on Monday. Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee are calling for an investigation into the Target hacking. They sent a letter to that panel’s chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Tex.).

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