Incident Response, TDR

Glitch caused Walmart website to display jaw dropping deals

A so-called “technical error” caused Walmart's website to showcase sales that make Black Friday seem like child's play.

Deals that online shoppers could normally only dream of, drew them in droves to the site: $578 DLP projectors marked down to $8; flat screen computer monitors normally just under $200 for $9, and $300 XBox consoles lowered to $18, were just some of the erroneous discounts reported by various media outlets, like ABC News and WCPO Cincinnati, on Wednesday.

While early reports said that online shoppers seeking to take advantage of the unbelievable prices ran into issues purchasing (WCPO reported that the site “locked up”), ABC News said that some customers actually bought the mistakenly marked down goods.

A Walmart spokeswoman told the outlet that the issue, which affected the site Wednesday morning, was a “technical error” and not the result of a website hack, as many customers on social networking sites had speculated.

“I want to make very clear this is not a hack,” Walmart spokeswoman Ravi Jariwala told ABC News. “This is an internal technical error.”

The company also said that it was working to fix the issue and “working through [the] details” of whether it would honor the sales. reached out to Walmart, but did not immediately hear back from the company. It appears that the issue may have led to a busy sale day for the company, however. 

Of note, the $578 InFocus IN2124 Projector showcased on Walmart's site for just $8.85 earlier today, is now out of stock.

On Wednesday, Julie Conroy, research director of Aite Group's retail banking practice, told that often times, retailers, or even banks, that experience issues of the like fail to come clean about what actually affected their services, for various reasons.

Aite Group is a Boston-based research and advisory firm that specializes in business technology and regulatory issues that affect financial services.

“My experience with these types of situations is we may never know if it was a hack or a systems glitch,” Conroy said. “We've seen situations where it ended up being a hack, where banks or retailers didn't want to give the attackers credit [so as not to] serve as an invitation for them to attack again.”

She added that it was also very plausible that a systems glitch did occur, as retailers are often updating their systems or doing maintenance tasks this time of the year.

“Many online merchants are making sure that their systems are secure and as bullet proof as possible, as they move into the highest money making time of the year. It is entirely possible that this was a system tweak that went very, very bad,” Conroy said.

Just last Monday, a study was released that revealed the cost of holiday website attacks for businesses.

“The 2013 eCommerce Cyber Crime Report” showed, in particular, the business loss incurred by downed e-commerce sites on Cyber Monday, the Friday following Thanksgiving where merchants vie for online holiday sales.

Sponsored by RSA Security and conducted by the Ponemon Institute, the study found that, on average, just an hour of downtime for a customer-facing website could cost a company nearly $500,000 on Cyber Monday.

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