Retail heavyweights such as J.C. Penney Co., Gap Inc., Nike Inc. and Walgreen Co. are joining forces with the Retail Industry Leaders Assn. to try to protect the industry from hackers and other cybercriminals.
On Wednesday, the companies and the trade group launched an intelligence-sharing center designed to prevent the kind of data breach that struck Target Corp. over the holiday season.
Target, also a partner in the new program, has said that the intrusion exposed 40 million payment card numbers as well as personal data of as many as 70 million customers.
The new center will enable retailers to communicate among themselves about potential threats.
The Homeland Security Department, Secret Service and FBI also will be involved.
Companies can anonymously share tips with the government through a cyber-analyst and a technician at the National Cyber Forensics & Training Alliance facility in Pittsburgh.
The two dedicated specialists will parse through information about new strains of malware, activity on underground criminal forums and software weaknesses.
"We have seen a sharp increase in the number of malicious actors attempting to access personal information or compromise the systems we all rely on, in the retail industry and elsewhere," said Phyllis Schneck, deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Homeland Security Department.
The center also will offer training and education and research resources to retailers.