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PlayStation Network Hack – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

In a press conference late last week, Sony PlayStation Network executives confirmed that the recent hacking incident that exposed personally identifiable information and credit card numbers of all or part of the user database, was an exploit of a known vulnerability – just not one known to Sony.

The “external intrusion” has left 77 million PlayStation Network and Qrirocity users without access to the services or their personal data stored there for the past 10 days.  In the press conference, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai publicly addressed the security breach, the network shutdown and tentative restoration date, as well as Sony’s other plans to “make good”  to its  millions of loyal users.

Hirai-san stated that there’s “no evidence that credit card numbers, expiration dates or billing addresses” were stolen and that there have been no confirmed cases of credit card fraud relating to this incident. However, he later urged all PSN members to check monthly credit card billing statements for possible fraudulent charges. Previously, the company had stated that as many as 10 million credit cards may have been “exposed” but there was no “proof” that they had been stolen.

These seemingly incongruous statements may be the result of semantics, Japanese-English translation or both. Or perhaps it just shows how data security breaches by their very nature can create chaos or at least a lot of unknowns. The incubation period and extent of potential harm for stolen personal information can vary in length and degree. What is clear is that some hackers delight in infiltrating systems “just because they’re there,” most sophisticated and well-orchestrated attacks are driven by underground, malevolent economic pay-offs.

Sony’s reputation re-building efforts, proposed compensatory offers to members, network security enhancements and organizational changes are all admirable and necessary in the wake of this massive breach. But there’s also the hard truth that perhaps all of this could have been avoided. At Redspin,  we assess network infrastructure and applications against known vulnerabilities. We then take a “hacker’s eye view” and analyze and report on potential attack vectors. Our findings reports suggest improvements  to network infrastructure, tightening security controls, and hardening web applications.

We urge our clients to be proactive about security – implement a regular cycle of security testing, remediation, validation and retesting. Our Enterprise Solution provides a structured approach to institutionalize security as part of operations. And its certainly affordable – particularly when one considers the potential costs of a catastrophic breach.


This Post Has One Comment
  1. This has to be the biggest hack of 2011 so far. Incredible that such a security leak could have been exploited!

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