Sony fined stg£250,000 over ‘preventable’ PlayStation Network breach

24 Jan 2013

Sony has been fined stg£250,000 by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office for what it deemed the preventable hacking of the Sony PlayStation Network platform in 2011 that saw the network go offline for weeks on end and compromised the details of millions of users worldwide.

When Sony’s PlayStation Network was hacked in April 2011, millions of customers’ names, addresses, email addresses, dates of birth, account passwords and payment card details were put at risk of identity theft.

The attack on Sony’s networks in 2011 is seen as one of the largest online data breaches to date – resulting in the theft of personal information belonging to more than 100m users of its PlayStation Network, Qirocity, and Sony Online Entertainment services.

Sony attack could have been prevented – ICO

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) investigation found that the attack could have been prevented if the software Sony was using was kept up to date, while technical developments also meant passwords were not secure.

“If you are responsible for so many payment card details and log-in details then keeping that personal data secure has to be your priority,” David Smith, the deputy commissioner and director of data protection at the ICO said.

“In this case that just didn’t happen, and when the database was targeted – albeit in a determined criminal attack – the security measures in place were simply not good enough.

“There’s no disguising that this is a business that should have known better. It is a company that trades on its technical expertise, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they had access to both the technical knowledge and the resources to keep this information safe.

“The penalty we’ve issued today is clearly substantial, but we make no apologies for that. The case is one of the most serious ever reported to us. It directly affected a huge number of consumers, and at the very least put them at risk of identity theft.

“If there’s any bright side to this it’s that a PR Week poll shortly after the breach found the case had left 77pc of consumers more cautious about giving their personal details to other websites. Companies certainly need to get their act together but we all need to be careful about who we disclose our personal information to,” Smith said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years