Big Data, Big Problems

by Jongwoo Y
Zappos and 6PM, two of the largest online clothing retailers in the United States, have recently experienced a security breach in their big data. This cyber attack has effected the information of 24 million customers, the largest amount since the attacks that Sony had received last year. Barbara Scott, a director of a technology services business and victim to these recent attacks, believes that this type of attack should not be viable for companies with so much financial backing. “You would think companies like eBay or Amazon have the financial backing wherewithal to take the proper security measures.(Perlroth, 2012)” The attacks have been able to retrieve the customer names, encrypted passwords, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and the last four digits of customer credit cards. What was even more outrageous than the attacks was the email that millions of Zappos customers received from the CEO, Tony Hsieh (who is usually held in high regard). In the email, Hseih apologizes, but instructs customers to send emails for questions rather than calling the support lines because they “simply aren’t capable” of taking the expected number of calls(Perlroth, 2012). This incident has left a sour taste in many Zappos customers, not only did they feel less secure with the breach, but also as if they have been not taken care of after the incident had occurred.

As a customer of Zappos myself, I also received the email informing me that my personal information was in jeopardy. The feeling that you get after reading the email is a mixture of being scared for your finances and anger towards the company for not taking care of their customer databases. The thing that’s even more frustrating about this situation is that it happened to another company one year before, and it was even on a larger scale. You would think that big businesses would realize how important of an asset their big data is and that they would put more effort into keeping it secure. To quote Barbara Scott from the article, “How hard can it be to find a safe place online to buy shoes?”

What was really appalling was the way the CEO of Zappos had handled the situation. By basically telling customers that they would not be able to receive any help over the phone, he basically told his customers to go screw themselves. At times like these, the customers are looking for any type of support, whether it be emotionally or for their questions about their financial well being. It is a huge mistake for Zappos to treat their customers in this fashion, especially after creating such a big blunder in the first place.


Perlroth, N. (2012, January 17). New york times. Retrieved from

8 thoughts on “Big Data, Big Problems”

  1. Thank God i never bought shoes from them. I agree that was a poor decision that the company made. Companies of that scale should invest more into their security. They should at least offer some phone support at minimum and this also brings up the topic of are we really safe online? Can we trust these retailers with all our personal information? Even thouh

  2. Wow. Another online service has been assaulted by an unknown entity. Though not with this one, I was affected by the PSN breach last year and I concur – that email is always troublesome. Fortunately, I had no financial account setup with them, so my compromised data was not very valuable. Part of the uproar that that attack caused was identical to the one you mentioned here – it is stunning how little attention and resources are spent on security, especially with database systems maintaining such valuable information. Considering these organizations are listed as leaders in their respective product/service fields, I fear that it won’t be long when malicious programmers will be too many steps ahead to be caught.

  3. Going off of what Brian said, it is beyond belief that they could not have allotted the proper resources to protect their organization from this attack. With all the hype about the rise of actions such as this, it’s a wonder to why this was able to happen to an organization of this scale. This just goes to show the trouble with the big data out there and how the need for proper data organization and protection shines. Moving away from the college and into the ‘real world’ will prove useful to those with such skills.

  4. Another great example of why people should not have identical passwords for multiple accounts. Hsieh’s Zappos has been in business for a long time. I think that there are and probably always will be problems dealing with data security as far as the internet is concerned. This article didn’t surprise me, the e-mail from zappos didn’t surprise me either. The idea that confidential information being stolen is not new, consumers should already be aware of the risks involved with making purchases online. Therefore, it is really their choice to use or not use the service.

  5. Yes, I find it difficult sometimes to get myself to buy things online lately after what happened with Sony and now this. It is really tempting to buy things online because it is so much more convenient, but it seems a lot more risky to me now because I have fallen victim to identity theft before and it feels pretty horrible when it happens to you. I guess the best way is to limit putting out your information online and be careful of the websites you buy things from, because even the biggest companies could get hacked.

  6. My blog was about the Gawker databases getting hacked. Millions of people use the same passwords for many of their different accounts. Once a password is decrypted, many other accounts that could contain credit card information are also compromised.

  7. This is pretty scary. The rise of big online companies having their databases breached has increased. It makes me uneasy about shopping online. I try to change my password whenever I can, but to have more personal information such as credit card info, stolen is way scarier.

  8. I once read about how a few people took an online password database and hacked into the governments SQL, thus breaching a lot of sensitive information. It appears that not many administrators change their password in a regular basis. It is scary to trust a big company to then find out that your personal information has been hacked into.

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