Twenty years ago or so, an auction company’s doomsday scenario was an unexpected telephone outage. These days, with most bids coming in electronically, a website crash on closing night is the most feared scenario.
Last October, Robert Edward Auctions’ site went down during the final hours of bidding. Late Friday night, the second of a two-session sale at Heritage Auctions came to a halt. Late Saturday night, Goldin Auctions also experienced a brief crash. It suggested coordinated hacking efforts may be to blame.
“This is NOT what we want to happen on auction close night,” CEO Ken Goldin told customers in an email. “But it appears that some group is going after the auction houses closing nights.”
Goldin Auctions was able to rectify its issue fairly quickly, extending its bidding window by a couple of hours and the auction ended normally—a little later than planned.
“We understand some bidders were disappointed that extended bidding for some of your lots was a few minutes away from ending, but at the same time that was occurring, my own staff could not place phone bids, admin access was gone, and hundreds of online bidders were unable to place their bids,” Goldin stated. “I had to play King Solomon and come up with an equitable solution. To ensure every bidder HAD A FAIR AND EQUAL CHANCE to win their lots, we extended the bidding process. In hindsight had I known the servers would be up and running up to speed as quickly as they were, i would have done it to 11 PM and not midnight, but there was no way of knowing when I made the call.”
The nation’s largest collectible auction house, Heritage appeared to have been hit the hardest with the company’s outage affecting its entire group of categories. The first of its two-night sports memorabilia auction went off without a hitch Thursday, with the sale of Ricky Williams’ Heisman trophy, a rare bobblehead and other items. The second session was nearing its end on Friday evening when the website went down. Heritage acknowledged the problem through its social media channels but the auction never came back online. A site wide message then appeared later in the weekend, stating:
“We are experiencing a technical outage that is taking longer than expected to restore. We realize that open auctions are being delayed, and we will repost them and extend them so that everyone can participate. We will notify all consignors and all bidders as soon as we can. Thank you very much for your patience. We are unable to respond to emails at this time, but will do so as soon as possible.”
Several hundred items were being offered in the Friday night session that was interrupted.
On Sunday, the company confirmed it had been the victim of a malware attack, adding:
Please be aware that client financial information (e.g. credit card, bank account info, etc.) is maintained by a third-party provider and thus not affected.
We expect to be back online soon.
All currently affected auctions will be extended or rescheduled and we will notify everyone accordingly.
More updates soon.
The Heritage website remained effectively offline as of late Monday morning.