Christie's website is destroyed by hackers days before $840 million auctions

Days before the expected sale of $840 million worth of artwork at an auction that included paintings by Warhol and Basquiat, the auction house experienced what it described as a “technological security issue” that took his website offline.

Some collectors and art consultants noticed the problem Thursday evening. The next morning, the website redirected visitors to a temporary page outside of its web domain. “We apologize that our website is currently offline,” she said. “We are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and apologize for any inconvenience.”

Edward Lewine, a spokesman for Christie's, said a security issue affected some of the company's systems, including the website.

“We are taking all necessary steps to manage this matter, with the engagement of a team of additional technology experts,” he said in a statement. “We will provide further updates to our customers as necessary.”

In recent years the art world has faced an increasing number of cyber attacks. In January, a service provider that helped museums host their collections online and manage internal documents was targeted by hackers. Organizations such as the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra have faced cyberattacks that have hampered their ability to sell tickets online.

“It's difficult for companies to get ahead of cybercrime because attacks continue to evolve,” said Chelsea Binns, a cybercrime expert who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.

Binns said it is good practice for companies to inform the public as soon as possible if hackers may have access to sensitive information.

The art market is an industry that operates discreetly because its clientele is often made up of world leaders and powerful businessmen.

“Due to the nature of the clientele and the numbers involved, I would expect something better than best practices,” said art consultant Todd Levin.

Levin said the cyberattack occurred at a crucial time before spring sales, when potential buyers confirm their interest in works of art expected to sell for tens of millions of dollars. He said he wouldn't be thrilled right now if he were a salesman. “How can potential bidders access the catalogue?” asked Levin.

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