Source: Kevin Dooley on Flickr.

Much has been said about the Target data breach that exposed both the personal and financial data of millions. It's undoubtedly a terrible thing you'd wish on no one. But as it turns out, it may have been an inadvertently great thing for the industry moving forward.

The progression of safety
At a recent conference on the payments industry, TRANSACT14, executives from Bank of America Merchant Services -- a Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and First Data joint venture -- Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), and Vantiv (NYSE:WP) discussed the recent changes from the standpoint of the acquirers -- essentially those who act as the middlemen in the processing of a payment.

It should come as no surprise the conversation ultimately shifted to the recent data breaches -- those at Target, Neiman Marcus, Michaels, and others -- and what they meant to the payment industry. Yet what may come as a surprise is the response the executives gave surrounding the issue.

Source: BobMical on Flickr.

The surprising response
The President of Merchant Services at Vantiv, Donald Boeding, said, "there's a plus and a minus," to these. Debra Rossi, the CEO Wells Fargo Merchant Services said while undoubtedly the Target data breach was terrible, perhaps it may ultimately be good. And Brian Mooney, who is the CEO of Bank of America Merchant Services, agreed wholeheartedly with Rossi and Boeding.

Now, before you think this is just one more example of big banks being unaware of the public, and further evidence of the Wall Street versus Main Street divide, the exact reason why these executives thought these breaches may actually be a good thing will surprise you even more.

The ultimate surprise
The drivers behind the statements of these executives were the responses from Congress, consumers, and merchants alike following the events, all pushing for greater security.

In addition, they've result in collaboration among rivals and competitors in the payments industry to ensure all transactions are safe and secure. MasterCard and Visa have announced a partnership to accelerate the evolution to a more protected payments industry.

Debra at Wells Fargo said she was hopeful because it has led to Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase all seeking to ensure the payments industry has enhanced security measures.

With the dangers of a data breach exposed, retailers and merchants now understand how critical it is to ensure they too are investing in initiatives to ensure the data of their customers is protected. Mooney from Bank of America remarked the merchants themselves have now initiated conversations with the understanding that a $100,000 cost to improve security surrounding customer data is actually an investment.

The hope for the future
There is no denying being a victim of the Target breach is something I'd wish on no one. As a former resident of the great Palmetto State -- South Carolina -- which itself was victim to a massive data breach, I know the troubles faced by individuals when their personal information is stolen.

However, one has to hope -- as these executives suggest -- an incident such as the Target data breach, and the others like it, will one day soon result in a more secure network for all of us.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.