NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The cyberattack on Home Depot (HD) that has allegedly impacted it's 2,200-plus U.S. stores offers the latest glimpse into how the shunning of actual cash by consumers is placing enormous stress on the infrastructure of major retailers. Home Depot is now working with Internet security firms Symantec (SYMC) and Fishnet Security, as well as the United States Secret Service, to identify the source of a breach that executives first observed on Sept. 2.
With no estimate on the number of parties potentially harmed by faceless cybercriminals, any eventual monetary damage payout is a large unknown that clouds the outlook for cash usage by Home Depot in 2015. However, it also conjures up uncertainty regarding the near-term outlook for a business that has been humming since 2011 amid the housing market's recovery, as consumers may forego purchases at Home Depot in the same manner they did at the data breached big-box retailer Target (TGT) .
Since Target's data breach was made public in late November of last year, the company's U.S. store traffic has declined by 2.3% in the first quarter and 1.3% in the second quarter. The company has issued three consecutive earnings warnings, as it has had to become more competitive on prices to lure in disenchanted consumers.
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Given the sensitive nature of sharing personal information online, Home Depot's third-quarter Web sales can serve as a gauge for investors of whether the possible cyberattack is weighing on the fundamentals of the business, and perhaps diverting management's attention from key initiatives.