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Spec’s, a Texas liquor store chain, was the victim of a network data breach that lasted over a year-and-a-half which resulted in the compromise of more than a half-million customer records including bank routing numbers, payment card numbers and security codes.

The breach is thought to have began around October 21, 2012 and the attackers maintained access to systems through March 20, 2014 and affects as many as 34 of the chain’s stores, and the company may have become aware of the intrusion only after being alerted by banks and credit card companies of affected customers.

“This was a very sophisticated attack by a hacker or hackers who went to great lengths to cover their tracks,” Spec’s spokeswoman Jenifer Sarver said. “It took professional forensics investigators considerable time to find and understand the problem then make recommendations for Spec’s to fully address and fix them.”

Disclosure of the breach was apparently delayed at the request of federal investigators who were collecting evidence and trying to trace the attackers, but questions remain as to why it took so ling for the company to detect the compromise and why the forensic examination was so lengthy.

“I’m surprised the investigation went on so long without them discovering the root problem,” said Tim Erlin, Tripwire’s director of IT risk strategy at data security, who also noted that the breach period “was exceptionally long” and that the company’s security efforts “were clearly ineffective or inadequate.”

“The issue has been resolved and data is no longer being obtained,” Sarver said, adding that the company replaced point of sale systems and “disabled and removed malware that was illegally placed on the computer systems.”

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