(**NOTE: This was originally posted on my other blog on the San Antonio Current Website on May 7th, 2011. I am re-posting it here to connect it to my other personal work from the past and future. If you haven’t read it yet, hope you enjoy.)
After watching the season finale of Fringe on Friday night, I took a page from Walter’s book and called up my alternate in the other universe. I was curious to see if the security breach on Sony’s Playstation Network was as bad over there as it was here. Surprisingly, my Grayson-alternate thought I was mistaken since their network was running fine on his side—it was Nintendo’s online network! In other universe, the big N was busy investigating a giant online cyber attack by an outside source that exploited flagrant security holes in their Nintendo Win-center network. As a result, no one was able to play online portions of the new Zelda or Smash Bros game that had just debuted. Now this was all fascinating and informative, but I knew it wasn’t going to help figure out how to fix our network in this universe.
Ok so the above paragraph might be a little on the fake side, but over 75 million PSN users can agree that for the past several weeks, Sony has had a lot of questions to answer (I can only imagine what their PR department is having to deal with right now). As of this writing, the PSN has been shut down for 20 days, the longest period of time any major online network has been down in video game history. Since recounting every event would turn this blog post into a small dissertation, here is a great article over at IGN that puts everything into a nice timeline. But if you’re looking for a short summary of what’s been going on, here’s a quick rundown of what every PS3 user has been clamoring about for weeks:
WHO: The attackers have yet to be fully identified, but evidence points toward a small contingent of hackers from the notorious hacktivist group Anonymous. While the group has publicly stated they had nothing to do with this attack, they have also mentioned that some of their members may have acted on their own accord.
WHAT: The major account information of approximately 70 million PSN users. The information taken includes, but is not limited to address, phone number, age, account name, password, and in some cases credit card information
WHEN: The network was officially shutdown on April 20th, but as information has come to light, the cyber attack appeared to have occurred on April 16th. Engineers at Sony notice the breach on April 19th, but do not publicly acknowledge it until April 26th—a full week after the breach was first noticed.
WHERE: The Playstation Network.
WHY: Difficult to say for certain. While Anonymous has claimed a desire for a transparent society that is more open and honest about the use and disclosure of information, their actions have never been to expose personal information about the public. Rather, they aim toward the secrets behind major political figures and societies. They have stated, however, there are several facets of Sony’s policies they don’t agree with, which may contribute to the reasons behind this attack. If the day comes that the culprits are found and exposed, it will be much easier to figure out why they wanted to teach Sony a lesson.
Whatever the reason, I hope the attackers know how to stay off the grid for the next few years. Since the breach, Sony hired an external cyber security company to investigate how the attack occurred and where it came from. Moreover, the FBI has also thrown their hat into the ring and is currently using their resources to pinpoint exactly where the attackers were when they hacked into the PSN and where they might be now. But putting all of the finger pointing aside for a moment, let’s look at the most important part of this debacle: A few hackers managed to steal the personal information of almost every single user of an international, multi-billion dollar organization. That sentence is usually reserved for the plot of the next summer blockbuster, but it’s no joke here; at this very moment, someone out there has my information. This person knows where I live, knows my phone number, and how to log in to my account. Fortunately, I did not have a credit card number attached to my account, but I can’t say everyone made it out that lucky.
Will they use my account, or anyone else’s for nefarious reasons? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps they simply wanted to expose these flaws in Sony’s infrastructure. Maybe they plan to sell the info to a third party for any number of uses. It’s still impossible to say for certain, but what I will say is that in the midst of all that has happened, I ultimately must side with the hackers for now. Without condoning or condemning, it seems they aren’t the ones we need to be mad at right now. Sure, because of them I can’t play my SOCOM 4 or Portal 2 online or sync any of my trophies to my profile, but that problem pales in comparison to the security breach Sony managed to let slip by them. And what’s worse, Sony is offering every user a free month of Playstation Plus in compensation for the time lost. Seriously? You want to tease your users with bonus content and then take it away a month later, goading many of them to throw down 50 bucks to keep it? I gotta hand it to you, your marketing department really does see any problem as an opportunity… A sick opportunity, but an opportunity nonetheless.
See you in the next level,