Message-board posters expressed many emotions Wednesday when
site went down, but surprise wasn't among them.
A visit to the E*Trade boards on sites such as
showed an early rush of angry messages as posters assumed the online brokerage was again grappling with internal technical troubles. Later, when news reports suggested another "denial-of-service attack" by hackers was behind the problem, some posters turned skeptical, suggesting the company was hiding its technical deficiencies behind the onslaughts Yahoo! and others experienced this week. Finally, some posters rejoiced when the site resumed operating about two hours after it was shut down, on the thinking that the Menlo Park, Calif., concern had defeated the hackers.
The strong reactions, paired with the muted message-board showings following hacker attacks on the likes of distinctly customer-friendly outfits such as Yahoo! and
, suggest that online brokerages could be more vulnerable to hacker attacks because their services rely on timeliness for much of their appeal. And companies that have persuaded customers in the past of their devotion may get a more patient reception in times of need. E*Trade shares were off 1 at 22 in normal volume Wednesday afternoon.
Spreading Like Wildfire
E*Trade has a history of service glitches, and on any given day, a handful of message-board posters will write desperate pleas about difficulty accessing the site. Coincidentally, it was around this time last year that the site went down for three days with intermittent service outages, caused by internal technical problems. Wednesday morning, the message boards lit up as talk of hackers spread and customers grew frustrated.
"I CAN'T LOG ON TO ETRADE!" wrote
on Raging Bull at 9:03 a.m. EST. Other frustrated investors followed.
"NOTHING WORKS," wrote
. "I AM LOSING $THOUSANDS. I HAVE HAD IT WITH ETRADE. I DON'T CARE IF IT'S "HACKERS," THIS IS THE LAST STRAW. MAJOR BUMMER EVERY DAY WITH THIS SITE."
"this is a "cyber" company," wrote
. "they have had major problems during peak trading hours with their servers. They need an upgrade."
Some traders wondered whether the outage was staged. "they're definitely bluffing the media on this one," wrote
on Yahoo!. "The system is down in Canada, Alaska, Alabama, and here in NC, sounds a little improbable that this wide an area would all be linked."
But once service was restored two hours later, the mood shifted perceptibly. "ALERT: EGRP BEATS HACKERS!" wrote
on Yahoo!. Some praised E*Trade for the quick turnaround and compared it with Tuesday's outages on Yahoo! and
. "EGRP has done an excellent job restoring service so fast, what took ebay and yahoo all day was done in minutes by there team," wrote
Indeed, Yahoo!, eBay and Amazon.com got off easy on the boards yesterday, suffering little criticism. The contrast suggests that traders feel more desperation when an online brokerage goes down, resulting in a possible loss in profits. If Amazon.com is down for a few hours, on the other hand, it's easy enough to come back later to order that book or CD.
Ultimately, posters rallied around E*Trade. "SHORT HACKERS DID EGRP A FAVOR," wrote
on Yahoo!. "THE ATTACK ALLOWED EGRP TO SHOW OFF ITS GREAT DEFENSE."
on Yahoo! put it all in perspective: "what does not kill us will make us stronger."