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PS3: It Only Does Nothing to Protect Your Privacy
For those of you that haven’t been following the PlayStation Network outage bonanza, here’s a quick recap:
PSN went offline on the evening of Wednesday, April 20th
No PSN means no playing games online or accessing content in the PlayStation Store, but oddly enough, automatic game updates were still working
It remained offline for a couple of days before Sony released a statement to the effect that an “external intrusion” had been the cause of the shut-down and subsequent investigation
On Saturday the 23rd, they finally admitted that they were overhauling their system security and asked for everyone’s patience as PSN remained offline for the duration of the holiday weekend
As of Tuesday the 26th, PSN is still offline, and there is no clear timeline as to when it will be back
Sony “expect[s] to restore some services within a[nother] week”
Now, I posted a news story about a rumor going around that this new custom firmware was released that allowed some people to trick their way onto an unprotected subdivision of PSN reserved for developers, thereby enabling them to download tons of content for free. People theorize that that was why the service was shut down, since such rampant piracy would be hurting them more than any two-bit hacker or DDoS attack. Maybe that happened, I don’t know, but if it did, it would now seem to be just a drop in the bucket of reasons why Sony had to take PSN offline last week. The latest update on the PS Blog, though, pretty much confirms the fact that they were hacked, and hacked real bad. Here’s an excerpt from an email they’re going to send to everyone involved:
We have discovered that between April 17 and April 19, 2011, certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network. In response to this intrusion, we have:
Temporarily turned off PlayStation Network and Qriocity services;
Engaged an outside, recognized security firm to conduct a full and complete investigation into what happened; and
Quickly taken steps to provide you with greater protection of your personal information.
First of all, why didn’t they think of providing sufficient protection of our personal information before? Yeah, I said “our;” I have a PS3 and I am a registered user of PSN, with saved credit card info and everything. Why in the hell would such a huge company, that serves tens of millions of customers, build their house out of straw, only to rebuild it with bricks after the Big Bad Wolf inevitably comes by to blow it down? Considering I don’t spend a whole lot of time playing PS3 games, let alone online, I wasn’t too bothered by PSN being taken offline for days on end (it’s been about a week so far). But now that my personal information is at stake, I’m pretty irritated. What personal information, you ask? Here’s another snippet:
Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID. It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained. If you have authorized a sub-account for your dependent, the same data with respect to your dependent may have been obtained. While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained.
Wow! So basically, any information you might have ever provided to Sony, ever, may have been stolen. That’s great. I’m sure this decision to finally come out and disclose some details of the situation is their attempt at covering their asses, which could mean it’s not as bad as it sounds, but still, that’s insane. They do use uncertain terms like “it is possible that,” “we believe that,” and “out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that,” which along with the following several paragraphs of advice about preventing credit card fraud and other forms of identity theft certainly paint a picture of Sony performing damage control. Or they just truly have no idea what was compromised, etc… Whether they did or didn’t let personal information slip, I fully expect someone somewhere to file a class-action lawsuit over this. I mean, companies have been sued for much less before and lost -- I wouldn’t mind getting a few bucks out of this, either.
That brings me to another aspect of all this hoopla, which has been in discussion throughout the interwebs since day one of the outage: compensation. Does Sony owe anything to PlayStation Network users for the inconvenience caused by it being offline for so long? Some people say “Hell no, they don’t, since the service is free!” Others say “Who cares, it’s still an obligation of theirs to keep it operational!” The difference between those two people is most likely that one uses PSN all the time and one does not, however I think the answer lies in more of a grey area. There are those who pay a subscription fee for PlayStation Plus, the special tier of PSN service that gets you access to extra goodies like discounts, bonus games, and early access to demos. Then there are those that pay a subscription fee for an MMO game on PS3 like DC Universe Online. Both of those groups of people have been unable to enjoy the things they’re paying for. Personally, I’m not expecting any compensation, but I wouldn’t turn down any they might offer to me. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see what Sony does to try and regain some of the trust and/or respect of their customers that they’ve lost in the past week.
Firing Points is a weekly editorial that explores popular, pressing, or otherwise provocative topics in the world of gaming. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the rest of the FiringSquad team, or anyone else for that matter.
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