Can hackers crack Target's encryption codes?

Can hackers crack Target's encryption codes? »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Target is telling its customers not to worry about their PIN information that was captured by hackers, because the information is encrypted.

Some customers are still concerned.

"I'm still kind of scared that my information got stolen," said customer Marsha Roostandy, who lives in Aloha. "They say, 'Secure, secure,' but still you always have that little worry."

The Problem Solvers spoke to local tech expert, Benjamin Diggles, to find out if that worry over PIN information is founded.

Diggles said he agrees with Target that the encrypted PIN information would be very hard for hackers to access.

"They're using a technology that is like a puzzle, if you will. It requires a key to unlock this puzzle," he said.

Diggles said the digital key for the encrypted target PIN information is in a separate computer system, so hackers would have to try to get into that as well, which would be difficult.

"It's like storming one country and defeating it and realizing you have to storm an entire continent,” said Diggles. "It's a big undertaking."

He said the hackers probably sold the encrypted information to a third party, who would have trouble guessing the key code on their own, because there are quadrillions of possibilities. A quadrillion is a thousand trillions.

"It can be a combination of characters and numbers," said Diggles. "Imagine a cube in every which way like a crossword puzzle but, instead of just left to right, (it's) like a three-dimensional grid of all sorts of data. It's very fascinating and it's extremely secure."

Diggles said the people trying to guess all those quadrillions of possibilities would need an expensive and rare quantum supercomputer to try out all of the combinations.

"We're talking a grain of sand in the Sahara. If they had the right super-computing possibility," said Diggles. "If they did, I would be surprised they would be focusing their energy on hacking."

Diggles said if he had shopped at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, the period in question, he would not change his PIN, because he is confident that hackers would not be able to crack the code.

Some consumer experts warn that hackers are often able to guess not the encryption codes, but people's PIN's, because people use PIN's that are too easy, such as 1-2-3-4 or 1-1-1-1. They recommend you change your PIN to something more difficult to protect your money.

Information about Target's data breach:


Target phone number to call if you suspect your cards have been compromised : 866-852-8680.

Target's press release

Target's statement to its customers

Check Your credit, Get Your Free Credit Report:

Or Call: (877) 322-8228

Nationwide credit reporting agencies:

(800) 525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

(888) 397-3742
P.O. Box 9532
Allen, TX 75013

(800) 680-7289
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790