- Associated Press - Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Record Journal of Meriden (Conn.), Aug. 14, 2104

Target ousted its CEO in wake of last year’s computer security breaches, which reinforces the importance of companies protecting customer information stored digitally.

Gregg Steinhafel became the company’s chief corporate executive in 2008 and seemed to have achieved more good than harm. That is, until just before Christmas 2013. As the holiday shopping season approached, hackers got through Target’s digital security systems and made off with approximately 40 million credit and debit card numbers. One month later, a different cyberattack resulted in hackers obtaining names, phone numbers, emails and mailing addresses of about 70 million customers. Multiple security breaches of such sizes, and in such a short time frame, indicate failure by top executives to pursue and enact appropriate safeguards. Steinhafel had to go.

While few people may feel badly for the dethroned CEO (his severance payout reportedly topped $55 million), Steinhafel’s downfall is an important lesson for business professionals. In the digital age, computer systems that store consumer data must be tightly guarded against cyber intrusion. When stolen, personal information such as bank account numbers can cause substantial challenges and headaches for customers. It can be quite the frustrating endeavor to cancel credit cards, square off with insurance companies and change numerous passwords.

Companies whose security shortcomings result in customers undergoing those trials should not count on forgiveness from affected clientele - or even from those who just heard of the breach. Security failures of the last holiday season badly damaged Target’s reputation and profits. People wondered: Why shop at a store that has inadequate defense against hackers when you can buy from a business with a better record of protecting consumer information?

Target received criticism in years past for its reluctance to expand into online shopping and mobile platforms. Now it seems that the company was also lax in building up digital security systems capable of resisting today’s technologically advanced hackers. Other stores and companies should take note, and not fall behind the advance of cyber technology.

If financially feasible, it is well worth the investment to shore up the security of whatever programs collect and store digital data. Otherwise, businesses risk an irreconcilable loss of private info that could lead them, like Target, to face a clientele base suddenly short on trust and looking to shop somewhere else better protected against ever-evolving threats.

The Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield (Mass.), Aug. 11, 2014

Idealists will mourn the NCAA decision to allow the wealthiest college conferences to act, in essence, more like professional sports programs, as the death of the amateur ideal in athletics. Realists know that the amateur ideal died a long time ago at those colleges and conferences and there is no point in pretending otherwise. That ideal, however, lives on and thrives elsewhere, including in the county.

The NCAA’s plan enables five prominent conferences - the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences, the Pacific-12, the Big Ten and the Big 12 - and their 65 schools to, among other provisions, raise the value of scholarships (essentially salaries) and allow players to consult with agents. The plan must still pass muster with the NCAA’s member universities but with the major powers behind it, the plan is unlikely to be rejected.

Those five conferences contain some excellent academic institutions, Duke, Stanford and Vanderbilt among them, but many of the colleges are little more than football and basketball factories, serving as glorified farm teams for the NFL and NBA. The other Division 1 schools, like UMass, still playing by the old rules, may find it marginally more difficult to compete with these schools but they are barely competitive with them now. The NCAA is now acknowledging the obvious.

The NCAA’s hand was forced by high-profile lawsuits in which former players have claimed that the organization and its members profited from selling their images on T-shirts and in video games without reimbursing them, and by the nascent unionization effort by football players at Northwestern. Anecdotes about players struggling to eat on the modest money doled out for food while shirts with their names and images on them are sold for a large profit by the NCAA and its schools have severely damaged their image. The NCAA is obviously hoping to avoid lawsuits and unions while giving itself a needed public relations boost.

Local fans disgusted that big-time college sports are becoming bigger and more money-oriented can take solace that MCLA and Williams, playing at the Division 3 level, are keeping the amateur ideal alive. The play is entertaining and competitive, and money doesn’t talk.