In his new role as head of the Financial Services Roundtable, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty responded to the Target data breach by writing an open letter to Congress pushing for businesses and government to work together on new ways to thwart cyber thieves.

The letter, released Monday, calls for more “cooperative plans and action steps in areas such as information sharing, defensive tactics, system improvements, crisis response and management, as well as the need for more joint efforts with government.”

The Target breach, in which computer hackers illegally tapped financial and personal information for tens of millions of customers as they made purchases, combine with other recent attacks on retailers to form “a grave reminder of the need for robust and proper cyber protections,” Pawlenty wrote.

Pawlenty says the Financial Services Roundtable has worked among its members in the banking, savings and lending communities to create better communications of threats to cyber security. At the same time, the group is working on new technologies that make transactions safe. He said the bankers trade association also has worked specifically with the Treasury Department and Financial Stability Oversight Council.

Technology improvements can “protect payment information as it transits through the payment pipelines from customers to merchants to financial institutions through the use of techniques that will [make anonymous] payment information,” Pawlenty wrote.

Testing these systems includes “sophisticated industry simulations and exercises,” he noted.

The Senate and House will hold hearings next week on ways to avoid data breaches like the one at Target.

©2014 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)