P.F. Chang’s says card data was compromised

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro said credit- and debit-card data has been stolen from some of its restaurants and that it is probing the incident with the U.S. Secret Service and a team of third-party investigators.

All of the chain’s Asian-themed restaurants in the continental U.S. will now use a manual credit-card imprinting system, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company said Friday.

The restaurant chain joins Target and Neiman Marcus in being hit by hackers in attacks that have exposed the data of tens of millions of customers. The breaches have accelerated companies’ efforts to adopt new cards, used in Europe, Asia and Latin America, that store information on embedded chips rather than less-secure magnetic strips.

“If you look at the way commerce is conducted at the U.S. retail space, in comparison to other places in the world, the U.S. is an easier target,” Michael Sutton, vice president of security research at Zscaler Inc., a web-security firm in San Jose, California. Sutton is based in Washington.

Brian Krebs, an independent journalist who investigates hacker attacks, reported earlier this week that card data stolen from P.F. Chang’s had gone on sale on an underground Web marketplace, and the company said it was looking into the matter.

Krebs said that several banks indicated that the cards in the batch that went on sale on the Web had been used at P.F. Chang’s locations between March and May 19.

The hacker attacks have taken a toll on some of the companies that have been hit. In Target’s case, the data breach hampered sales and led to the ouster of its chief executive officer, who held himself personally responsible for the attack. Target named Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan as interim CEO last month, replacing Gregg Steinhafel.

Target will introduce the new chip-and-PIN technology for its house-brand credit and debit cards next year.

P.F. Chang’s, which was acquired by private-equity firm Centerbridge Partners LP for $1.05 billion in 2012 and also runs the Pei Wei Asian Diner chain, is facing other headaches beyond the breach. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its credit rating earlier this month, citing “soft consumer spending and intense competitive pressure.”

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