Apr 7, 2015

The Best (and Worst) Corporate Responses to High-Profile Hacks

We live in an age where data breaches are common, hitting even some of the biggest corporations in the world. The data breach that struck Target during the holiday shopping season in 2013, for example, saw victims awarded up to $10,000 each for the error. One of the most important factors about these situations isn't necessarily that a breach occurred, but rather how a company chose to respond. The best (and worst) corporate responses to high-profile hacks are a veritable education in how to react should your organization fall victim to the same fate.


The unprecedented data breach that struck Sony in late 2014 will go down in history for a number of reasons — including Sony's poor response. From the moment information about the hack became public, it was clear that the technology giant had very little under control. The hack itself started around November 24, but was not formally addressed until a few weeks later.

Afterwards, Sony played the blame game by pointing the finger at both the North Korean government and at disgruntled former employees, in an attempt to take the focus off the colossal security failure. Fallout from the hack is still going on, and the lawsuits from past and current employees alone is expected to cost millions when everything is said and done.

Home Depot

On the other end of the spectrum is the corporate response to a high profile hack that struck Home Depot recently. Home Depot's CEO Frank Blake was already transitioning into retirement by the time the company's internal systems had been breached. Instead of leaving a gigantic cyber mess for his successor to clean up, or blaming others for his company's mistakes (as was the case with Sony), Blake did essentially the opposite.

He and his team quickly made information about the breach public and accepted full responsibility, both in an attempt to save the company's public image and to legitimately warn past and current customers that an issue had occurred. He and his security team got to work fixing the problem and apologized in a touching public statement only a few hours after the breach had been discovered.

The most important lesson to learn from Home Depot is that all throughout the ordeal, Blake and his team emphasized that their concern was not with themselves, but with their customers. This went a long way toward restoring much of the goodwill that had been devastated by the hack.


Another poor response to a massive hack also comes from one of the world's largest corporations — Apple. Following the iCloud photo hacking scandal in September of 2014, Apple was quick to issue a statement denying all responsibility for the attack. To make matters worse, Apple went as far as blaming the victims. The company indicated that if only celebrities had been using stronger passwords, they wouldn't have had these types of issues. The fact that Apple would later release patches for the flaw in its security system implies Apple executives are putting at least some of the blame on themselves, even if they haven't said so publicly.

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