NEW YORK (
PlayStation Network security breach was considered the dumbest thing on Wall Street this week by readers of
As of late Friday, about 28% of the 136 readers that
took our poll
thought that Sony allowing hackers to infiltrate its system again was particularly egregious.
Sony warned its nearly 75 million PlayStation users around the world on Tuesday that their private account details, such as passwords, names, birth dates, addresses and credit card data, may have been exposed.
"We have discovered that between April 17 and April 19, 2011, certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network," Sony said.
Upon discovering the attack on its servers, the company quickly shut down its PlayStation Network, the infrastructure that provides online gameplay and other features, such as
and Hulu Plus viewing, as well as digital shopping for owners of PlayStation 3 and PSP devices.
It's bad enough that gamers who just used the PlayStation Network for its free online access are probably going to lose all of their trophies they've amassed and are going to have to change their password on just about any online service they use.
Users probably had their doubts when hackers broke into Sony's network and made its software available to users for free. Considering that type of access is usually restricted to developers, it's a complete mystery why Sony didn't go into lockdown mode, especially considering that early estimates for this PlayStation Network outage put Sony's revenue hit at roughly $20 million.
But why should gamers feel that their online cache of grenade launchers and claymore mines makes them any safer than just about every other consumer out there? About 46 million bargain shoppers had their credit card information boosted five years ago when TJX -- the parent company of retailers T.J. Maxx and Marshall's -- basically held a personal info doorbuster sale for hackers.
Just this month, Alliance Data Systems' marketing firm, Epsilon, let hackers have a field day with email addresses collected by 2,500 corporate partners including
Most recently, the New York Yankees absentmindedly sent a spreadsheet listing names, account numbers, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of every current non-premium season ticketholder to 2,000 of an account executive's clients.
Gamers should know better than anyone how little stands between them and a hacker. While most know that their habit can take a toll on their bank account, having their credit card information handed to hackers like an achievement bonus item should make them long for the days when video games could only steal your money a quarter at a time.
With approximately 27% of votes,
vow to issue new software that cuts back on its admitted location-tracking was voted a close second to the dumbest thing on Wall Street this week.
, which had created an outcry about potential privacy invasion.
The company issued a press release Wednesday consisting of 10 questions the company asked itself with regard to the issue, along with the answers it came up with. Through this process, Apple essentially rationalized why it was storing the data -- to provide better service of course -- but its insistence on its innocence seemed more than a bit disingenuous as the company turned the problem around on its users.
"Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so," the company said in Wednesday's release that also admitted that well, yes, there was actually whole databases of location information on iPhone users.
Next came the explanation. The short version: Apparently Apple doesn't track iPhones -- it collects the data from WiFi and cell tower antennas that track iPhones. The long version: In order to find your location faster, Apple said it uses a database of antennas in a given area. This ready cache of antenna info can quickly pinpoint you on a map -- that's a lot faster than if you had to wait for a GPS satellite report.
While Apple says this offers fast, accurate and secure location services, "users are confused" because the company has "not provided enough education about these issues to date." Ah, the classic "it's not you, it's me" defense. It's not your fault for being confused and angered about location-snooping. It's Apple's fault for not explaining how awesome the system is.
Apple also blamed bugs in the system. Apple didn't want to collect and store location data for as long as a year and said it will change that to one week. Apple also blamed a bug for allowing the collection of location data to continue even if the user shut off the location service.
The release ended with a vow to issue new software that cuts back on the location-tracking functions and also let users opt out of it.
To recap, there's no problem, but they're fixing it. Gee, this sounds awfully familiar. Almost like the same approach was used to fix the very not broken iPhone 4 antenna. After denying there was a flaw, the company gave away free bumpers and remained vague about an antenna fix. "We're still working on this -- we're happy with the design," Steve Jobs said at the time.
flip-flop was considered dumb by about 17% of voters.
By throwing former top lieutenant
over allegations of insider trading and a breach of fiduciary duty to
, Buffett reversed course from a cautious endorsement of Sokol he gave in a public press release just a month ago.
The audit committee of Berkshire Hathaway's board says it learned plenty more since March 30. Their report released this week states that trades Sokol made in shares of
( LZ), which Berkshire would soon thereafter agree to acquire, were a violation of Berkshire Hathaway policy and fiduciary duty.
Buffett is sure to face a firestorm at this weekend's Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, and it's no surprise he tried to preempt the furor as the Sokol headlines just wouldn't go away. Buffett's media massaging has always been about never letting the public know when he's about to drop a bombshell. In this case, however, Buffett simply bombed.
Morningstar analyst Greggory Warren said of the original Sokol resignation release, "Buffett said he accepted Sokol's resignation and it was more like he was glad to see Sokol's back side, as opposed to chastising him. That was classic Warren Buffett stuff."
A month ago, Buffett also drew his "line in the sand," saying he would have nothing more to say on the Sokol matter in public and would simply refer all questions back to the original press release, a release which said Sokol did nothing unlawful and had served admirably in his role at Berkshire over the years before resigning. Now it's 30 days and 19 audit committee report pages later, and Buffett's terse dismissal of further comment has been replaced by Buffett saying he will open up questioning at the annual meeting to the Sokol situation and post all answers on the company's Web site, too.
One thing that neither Buffett not Berkshire Hathaway did this week was offer any acknowledgment of their own mistakes, or a lack of internal controls that not only allowed the company's code of conduct to be breached, but led to Buffett completely reversing his position on the issue. Ever since the Sokol news first broke, analysts have expressed concern over Berkshire's internal controls and its oversight of managers, and the handling of the Sokol aftermath hasn't reassured anyone.
Buffett's flip-flop all by itself botched good corporate governance. Berkshire Hathaway could have said a month ago, before the audit committee review was complete, that the audit committee was reviewing the situation and the company would disclose the results of the review when it was finished. Many companies probably would have taken that approach.
Now in slamming Sokol, the Berkshire audit committee only allowed that it will, "work with company management and legal counsel to identify and implement lessons learned from these events, including possible enhancements to its procedures."
We'll be waiting for a public release of the findings from this review process, and we'll give the Berkshire board more than 30 days in the hope they get it right this time, and we hope it includes this "lesson learned": Make sure you have all the facts before you go to print.
Close to 15% of voters found it dumb that
Great White North
, which has also bailed out smoothie pusher
, agreed to inject about $40 million into the t-shirt retailer,
reported. As part of the deal, the investors reportedly gave American Apparel $15 million upfront, and then retained the right to buy nearly one-third of the company's shares at just 90 cents each.
However, had Great White simply Googled American Apparel, perhaps it would have rethought striking a deal with the retailer, which lost $84 million in 2010.
On Tuesday, just days after Great White stunningly came to the rescue, Charney and his company got hit with a second lawsuit from a former employee. The first lawsuit accused Charney of using a former saleswoman as a teenage sex slave. For the follow-up lawsuit, the same saleswoman was joined by two more women to accuse Charney of setting up Web sites that contained nude photos of them, photos they were allegedly pressured to pose for during company photo sessions.
Regardless of the allegations, which is all they are at this point, betting on a turnaround at American Apparel must require a profound suspension of reason. The company has been grappling with severe operating issues and hired a new chief financial officer in February in the face of a prolonged sales decline. The company's problems have ranged from a possible covenant breach to immigration probes and charges from its accountant that it withheld vital information.
And let's say that American Apparel's business does manage to turn itself around, that people really do want to pay more for T-shirts during the early stages of what's shaping up to be a prolonged economic recovery. Great. But something tells us Charney's problems aren't likely to disappear and aren't the kind of things that attract investors.
Almost 13% of voters thought the media frenzy surrounding
Chairman Ben Bernanke's press conference on Wednesday was pretty dumb.
Bernanke's first press conference on Wednesday had the financial media -- well mainly
-- at full froth.
"The committee continues to anticipate that economic conditions, including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations, are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate for an extended period," he said.
From there Bernanke proceeded with some more comments about unemployment, inflation, commodities and economic growth rates. Most of these things were already known and have been widely discussed.
"The committee sees the economic recovery as proceeding at a moderate pace," he said. The housing sector is depressed. The labor market is improving gradually. The FOMC is looking at many things both "very carefully" and "very closely."
But the media still reported on every word as if they provided a fresh insight into the economy.
senior economics reporter, seemed overcome by the moment when he asked Bernanke a question.
"Thanks for doing this, this is a tremendous development," said Liesman in the preamble to his question.
Yes, truly tremendous. That was the word everyone was reaching for.
Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston
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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.