Sony UK fined £250k for PSN Hack

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has been fined £250,000 for 2011's PlayStation Network breach by the UK Information Commissioners Office.

The PlayStation Network hack compromised users’ names, addresses, email addresses, dates of birth and account passwords. Customers’ payment card details were also at risk, according to the ICO, which has concluded that the hack attack could have been prevented if Sony’s software had been up-to-date, while  ”technical developments” also meant passwords were not secure.

ICO is an independent authority tasked with looking after the information rights of the public. David Smith, deputy commissioner and director of Data Protection at ICO said that Sony "let everybody down", and that it was "the most serious breach we have had reported to us".

The ICO is empowered to levy a fine on companies if there is a serious breach of section 4(4) of the DPA which states:

(4) Subject to section 27(1), it shall be the duty of a data controller to comply with the data protection principles in relation to all personal data with respect to which he is the data controller.

The PSN was hacked occurred between 17-19 April, with Sony forced to shut down the service on April 20. The outage lasted for 24 days in total, with personal information being taken from the 77 million accounts.

Sony has since said that it "strongly disagrees" with the verdict and plans to appeal. SCEE rightly points out that, despite technical weaknesses, Sony was itself the victim of an attack. It has also been quick to point out that “there is no evidence that encrypted payment card details were accessed,” and that “personal data is unlikely to have been used for fraudulent purposes”. Sony went on to say:

"Criminal attacks on electronic networks are a real and growing aspect of 21st century life and Sony continually works to strengthen our systems, building in multiple layers of defence and working to make our networks safe, secure and resilient.

The reliability of our network services and the security of our consumers’ information are of the utmost importance to us, and we are appreciative that our network services are used by even more people around the world today than at the time of the criminal attack."

David Smith, Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection, described the penalty on Sony as “substantial”, adding: “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". He also said Sony — a company that was processing card payments for its service — should simply have “known better”. He released this official statement:

“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.”

So what do you think? Should Sony have to pay a find for the hack? Are they truly the victim in this story?