"The files were inadvertently retained within other data files and this was not uncovered by the assessor," said a Forever 21 statement issued to StorefrontBacktalk in response to written questions.
Unlike some of Forever 21's fellow retail chain victims in the so-called TJX Breach case—including TJX, BJ's Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority and DSW—Forever 21 now says that wardriving (wireless interception) was not involved in its breach and that the data was accessed directly from the corporate data center.
"The numbers were not stolen at the point-of-sale. Stored data was illegally accessed from the corporate data center. The data was taken in January 2008, but the data was related to transactions occurring in years 2003 to 2005," the statement said.
The older data came from a single store in Fresno, Calif., raising the possibility that it was test data that had been used for a system trial and that it had been long forgotten.
Forever 21's statement also said that neither the chain's internal security mechanisms nor outside allies (credit card issuers, issuing banks, etc.) identified that the chain had been breached at all.
"The United States Secret Service contacted us in Spring of 2008 indicating that our name was among a list of retail stores which were thought to be potential targets. Neither the monthly vulnerability scan conducted by our outside audit company nor an internal investigation conducted as a result of the contact revealed signs of a breach," the statement said. It wasn't until Aug. 11—some six days after the feds unsealed the federal charges naming Forever 21 and other retail chains as victims—that "the Secret Service was able to provide us with information that enabled us to confirm a breach."