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By Mike Hughlett, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Dairy Queen has become the latest victim of computer hackers bent on pilfering customers’ credit and debit card information.

The Edina, Minn.-based ice cream and fast-food chain confirmed Wednesday that “customer data at a limited number of stores may be at risk.”

The company didn’t disclose how many customers or how many stores were affected.

“We are gathering information from a number of sources, including law enforcement, credit card companies, and processors,” Dairy Queen said in a statement.

Dairy Queen’s acknowledgment came after the website Krebs on Security, which is run by cybersleuth Brian Krebs, reported a possible breach at DQ. Citing unnamed sources, Krebs wrote that a pattern of fraud suggests some DQ stores were compromised as early as June.

Dairy Queen has several thousand stores in North America, and is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

In a statement, Dairy Queen said “the protection of customer data is a top priority for us and our franchisees, and we take it seriously.” The company said that it had been notified recently along with many other companies of a data breach due to the spread of “Backoff” malware.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that more than 1,000 U.S. retailers could be stricken with Backoff, malware — short for malicious software — discovered last October. Both United Parcel Service and Supervalu appear to have also been hit by the bug, which burrows into retail point-of-sale systems.

Eden Prairie-based Supervalu warned on Aug. 16 that hackers had breached its computer systems, which contained customer information from 1,016 grocery and liquor stores around the country, including 60 outlets in Minnesota. Supervalu, which owns the Cub Foods chain, said its computers were hacked between June 22 and July 17.

Minneapolis-based Target Corp. fell prey to a huge data breach during the 2013 holiday shopping period. It exposed the financial and personal data of 70 million customers, costing the retailer around $150 million so far.

Michaels Stores, Neiman Marcus, and P.F. Chang’s are among other large national retailers hit by cyberthieves in recent months.

Photo: StormKat via Flickr

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