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Hackers steal credit card numbers after billionaire strong-arms Pope Francis

The Home Depot
The Home Depot

AP reported yesterday that The Home Depot stores were hacked and millions of credit card numbers of their customers in all of its 2,200 U.S. stores were stolen. Could this be payback for Ken Langone who helped fund the start-up of The Home Depot and who earlier this year threatened to end charitable donations to the Catholic Church because Pope Francis is a strong supporter of the poor?

The possible data breach at The Home Depot was first reported by Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security, a website that focuses on cybersecurity. Krebs said multiple banks reported "evidence that The Home Depot stores may be the source of a massive new batch of stolen credit and debit cards" that went on sale on the black market earlier Tuesday.

Krebs reported that it's not clear how many stores were affected but preliminary analysis indicates the breach may have affected all 2,200 U.S. Home Depot stores. Several banks that were contacted said they believe the breach may have started in late April or early May.

"If that is accurate and if even a majority of The Home Depot stores were compromised, this breach could be many times larger than Target, which had 40 million credit and debit cards stolen over a three-week period," said the Krebs post.

Krebs said that the party responsible for the breach may be the same group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers suspected in the Target breach late last year. Krebs also broke the news of Target's breach.

The Home Depot spokesperson Paula Drake confirmed yesterday that the company is investigating.

“I can confirm we are looking into some unusual activity and we are working with our banking partners and law enforcement to investigate,” Drake said, reading from a prepared statement. “Protecting our customers’ information is something we take extremely seriously, and we are aggressively gathering facts at this point while working to protect customers. If we confirm that a breach has occurred, we will make sure customers are notified immediately. Right now, for security reasons, it would be inappropriate for us to speculate further – but we will provide further information as soon as possible.”

There are signs that the perpetrators of this apparent breach may be the same group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers responsible for the data breaches at Target, Sally Beauty and P.F. Chang’s, among others. The banks contacted all purchased their customers’ cards from the same underground store, which on Sept. 2 moved two massive new batches of stolen cards onto the market.

Shares of Home Depot Inc. fell $1.88, or 2 percent, to close at $91.15 yesterday.

The article, Billionaire threatens charity donations if Pope continues support for the poor which was written in January 2014, went viral with nearly 1 million page views over the last two days, and it may just be a coincidence that the hackers chose the Home Depot as their latest target, but in many law enforcement circles say there are no coincidences.

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