Commentary

Internet Will be Unsafe Forever, Says Sony Chief

Well, that's comforting. A month after Sony's PlayStation Network was brought low by a coordinated wave of hack attacks which compromised users' personal information, friendly hackers and security pros are warning that the network remains vulnerable to online malefactors. The response from Sony's boss (I'm paraphrasing): "Basically, yes."

The security breach at the PSN network, which compromised user information including credit card numbers, birthdays, mailing addresses and email addresses, will end up costing Sony an estimated $1 billion, not to mention millions of dissatisfied customers -- and the torment isn't even over. Immediately after Sony announced that security upgrades were complete, gaming site Nyleveia.com staffers showed it was possible to hack into the network and reset user passwords using their email address and date of birth -- information stolen by the hostile hackers in their first attack. Several other gaming sites then replicated Nyleveia.com's results (I love the empirical approach. Aren't engineers great?).

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Nyleveia.com suggested that PSN users open new email accounts which are devoted exclusively to PSN -- a sensible security measure, but also the kind of hassle that Sony is wary of inflicting on already-irate gamers.

While one might expect a vigorous, indignant response to the threat of new security breaches, my main impression from a Wall Street Journal interview with Sony CEO Howard Stringer is that the man has had a rough couple weeks and is exhausted -- too tired, even, to candy-coat the truth about online security in what he called the "bad new world" of cybercrime.

Stringer admitted that he doesn't know whether PSN users are "100% secure," and warned that more attacks are inevitable: "It's the beginning, unfortunately, or the shape of things to come. It's not a brave new world; it's a bad new world." By raising awareness of security risks, Sony may at least raise the bar for future hack attacks, so some good may come of this yet, according to the same WSJ interview: "Our case, unfortunately, is so large and the scale of the PlayStation Network so big that it's forced a lot of attention to be paid. In the long run, that'll be good for everybody else but it hasn't been a wonderful experience for Sony."
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