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New centre will allow retailers to share information about cybercrimes, potential threats

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Some of the nation's largest retailers are banding together in hopes of protecting consumers' personal and financial information from hackers and thieves.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, along with several top retailers ranging from Gap Inc. to Walgreen Co., on Wednesday launched an intelligence sharing centre focused on the prevention of cybercrimes against retailers.

According to RILA, the centre will allow retailers to share information about data breaches and potential threats and also inform members of law enforcement and industry analysts.

Sandy Kennedy, RILA's president, said crimes stemming from data breaches are one of the biggest challenges facing retailers.

"It's really in everyone's interest, every retailer's interest, to protect information against cybercrime," Kennedy said in an interview ahead of the group's announcement. "Criminals are getting more and more sophisticated. We're looking at how we can deal with this long term."

Other participating retailers include Nike Inc., Lowes Cos. and Target Corp., which was hit with a massive data breach at the height of last year's holiday shopping season. The breach exposed flaws in Target's security system and was a big factor in the abrupt departure of CEO Gregg Steinhafel last week.

The incident at Target resulted in the theft of 40 million debit and credit card numbers, as well as the personal information of up to 70 million shoppers, and shined a spotlight on the growing problem of cybercrime.

While work on the cyber intelligence sharing centre began in the wake of the Target breach, and smaller breaches at Neiman Marcus and Michaels Stores Inc., Kennedy said data crime was a big concern for the industry well before those incidents occurred late last year.

"All of our members have been focused on this for a long time," Kennedy said. "Our goal is to make sure the data is protected and that if criminals do get into data, it's in a form that they can't use."

Paul Morrissey, U.S. Secret Service assistant director for investigations, said in a statement, "The Secret Service actively supports information sharing initiatives such as the Retail Cyber Intelligence Sharing Center, announced today by RILA."

The Secret Service also says it continues its commitment to promote public and private partnerships through its 33 nationwide Electric Crimes Task Forces and two international crime task groups, which bring together over 6,100 private-sector partners, members of academia and local, state and federal law enforcement.

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