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Playstation Network Breach: Millions Compromised

Hackers Shut Down Sony's Playstation 3 Network

           Being an Xbox 360 gamer, I have an outside perspective, but I still feel for the 77 million people worldwide whose personal information on the Playstation network has been compromised. On Thursday, April 21st Playstation network was down for maintenance. However, Playstation consumers soon found out that the Playstation network had actually been hacked. Sony had originally reported that names, contact information, as well as stored credit card information had been taken. However, in a report released a few hours ago, Sony acknowledged that the information had been encrypted and there was no evidence that it had been taken.

            Although the extent of the breach is not fully known, Sony has partnered with law enforcement to monitor Playstation customers’ bank accounts for suspicious activity or newly enrolled credit cards. The fear is that millions of people worldwide may suddenly have new credit cards opened in their name, creating a major productivity suck for banks and financial institutions in sorting the credible credit lines from the illegal.

            Also on Playstation users’ minds: when will the network be up again? Sony, amidst an independent security review, is in the process of rebuilding its network infrastructure and data center in a more secure location. There are also rumors that the Playstation Network programming will be completely rebuilt as well, allowing consumers additional layers of online security as well as greater firewall protection. The Japanese firm believes the Paystation Network will be up and running again by next Tuesday, May 3rd.

            There has been significant criticism of Sony’s handling of the breach, not the least of which has been consumers upset with the fact that they were not fully informed until a week afterward. A week in which there could have been any amount of fraudulent bank activity on their accounts. Businesses are expected, in the event of a violation of consumer rights (such as a product recall or online account breach) to come out early with the information and state it clearly. Sony has not done that.

            So what are the implications for Sony as a company? Social Security numbers were not compromised and credit card information was encrypted (meaning hackers would not likely have recognized it, or would not be able to easily make sense of the information, but it is not a guarantee) but with the contact information compromised these hackers could pose as Sony and continue malicious activity as the company.

            Not to mention that there has been a breach not only of their network, but of consumer trust, and this may effect loyalty going forward. Afterall, there are other online communities available (Xbox Live, Wii Online, as well as a plethora of online PC gaming communities). Will this hurt Sony’s viability as a company, or at least as far as their Playstation brand and loyalty is concerned? Probably, at least at first. One can expect that Sony will go out of its way to entice its consumers back and up the content and service of their new Playstation Network (when it’s up again) as a sort of “sorry, our bad” olive branch. However, hackers go over large companies like this one not through specifically malicious intent (i.e. fraud or robbery) but as a “status symbol”. If hackers really wanted to accrue some misbegotten wealth, they would have targeted a financial institution.