TENS OF millions of Americans were recently exposed to a rude shock: theft of their credit card numbers, names and, in some cases, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. They were simply shopping at Target stores and had no idea that when they swiped a credit card at the cash register, they turned over private information to thieves.
This ought not be viewed as just another bad shopping day in the digital age. The massive Target data breach is a warning of a persistent and deepening cybertheft problem that needs to be confronted. Computer networks are vital to American capitalism and society, but they remain surprisingly vulnerable to thieves and hijackers. Law enforcement does not have the resources to stop them; the private sector is growing more aware but remains exposed and complacent; and Congress has yet to find a consensus.