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ICO Fines Sony £250,000 for 2011 PlayStation Network Breach

January 28, 2013 Chris Fairey

On 14th January, the Information Commissioner's Office, the government agency responsible for enforcing the Data Protection Act, issued a Monetary Penalty Notice to Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) for £250,000 in relation to the security breach of the PlayStation Network in 2011 that resulted in the compromise of the records of millions of UK PlayStation owners, who used the PSN to purchase digital content.

In a Press Release, issued by the ICO on 24th January, Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection, David Smith said:

"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. 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 77 per cent 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."

Sony has until 5 p.m. 13th February to appeal the decision.

What Happened?

For those of you who may not be aware of the facts in this case, the PlayStation Network (now the Sony Entertainment Network), along with several other systems linked to it, was the subject of a sustained attack in April 2011 that lead to unauthorised access of the PSN subscriber database, containing the personal details of some 77 million individuals, several of these users also had payment card details associated with their accounts, however it does not appear that these (which were encrypted) had been accessed.

The security breach was the result of the attacker exploiting a vulnerability that had already been identified and had a fix issued by the supplier, unfortunately, the organisation responsible for maintaining the systems that power the PSN, had failed to install the security update.

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