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The lawyers are coming for Sony, after it lost 101 million customers' information.  (Source: David Pear)

Sony has thus far refused to clarify whether users' credit cards were stolen. Its statements suggest that as many as 10 million customers MAY have had their credit cards stolen.  (Source: China Post)

Sony waited two days before informing the FBI of the breach and a full week before informing customers. Many customers are also distraught about their passwords, real names, and email addresses being stolen -- a combo which could give cybercriminals access to users' private online accounts.  (Source: Hard Forums)
After two high profile data losses, company has recruited the FBI and a private firm to crack down

Sony Corp. (6758) has been rocked in recent weeks by a pair of high profile system intrusions. One intrusion caused the outage of the company's Qriocity streaming media and PlayStation Network (PSN) services, along with the loss of 77 million customer records.  A second intrusion at Sony Online Entertainment lost 24 million additional customer records.

Together the intrusions may have lost over 10 million customers credit and debit cards, though Sony is still being unclear about whether or not this valuable information was taken.

I. Stepping up Security

In an effort to clean up its act, Sony has hired privately held security firm Data Forte to track down the cyber criminals.  Data Forte is the brainchild of a former special agent with the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The Japanese electronics giant has also retained cyber-security detectives from Guidance Software Inc. (GUID) and consultants from Robert Half International Inc.'s (RHI) subsidiary Protiviti to assist in the investigation and cleanup.

There is a bit of irony there, in that Robert Half was itself the victim of customer data loss just weeks ago.  Robert Half contracted email service solutions firm Epsilon to manage its client email database.  Like many Epsilon customers, it was shocked to hear that Epsilon's entire database of emails from various client companies had been stolen.

The three investigating firms are working closely with U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to examine possible identity theft or credit card fraud attempts from the individuals who stole the information.

II.  What's the Status?

One of the frustrating things about the entire incident is that Sony has been extremely unclear about whether users' credit cards were stolen.  In all of its statements it adopted ambiguous legal language-esque passages, which while not saying the cards numbers were stolen, also did not rule out the possibility.

Initially, Sony was also very quiet about the breach itself, waiting a full week before informing customers of its discovery and why the networks were down.  When it did finally inform them, it did offer them a great deal of information about the breach itself (though it offered precious little clarification on some of the most important points, like credit card loss).

Sony, whose Japanese executives have publicly apologized to customers, has also been silent about its ongoing investigation.  

Other security firms, though, who aren't involved firsthand, but reportedly have knowledge of the situation, are speaking out.  In an interview with Reuters, David Baker, vice president of services with electronic security firm IOActive, states, "It's a significant operation."

He said that he believes that Visa and MasterCard have hired their own investigators to probe the incident as well.  If true, this may indicate a greater likelihood that credit card information was indeed lost.

Sony is facing pressure from politicians about its failure to clarify the situation to the public.  Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Sony on Tuesday demanding that it clarify whether or not credit cards were stolen.

In the letter he says he will call on the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, to probe whether or not Sony should be held criminally or civilly liable for losing its customers personal information, including, potentially, financial records.

He writes:

I would appreciate a direct and public answer detailing what the company will do in the future to protect its consumers against breaches of their personal and financial information.

Reportedly one thing Sen. Blumenthal and others are upset about is the report that Sony waited two days after finding out about the breach before contacting the FBI.

III. Legal Troubles Ahead for Sony?

Despite its efforts to turn the corner with its internal security and track down the perpetrators of the breach, legal troubles may be looming for Sony, as Sen. Blumenthal's comments might suggest.  

The company has retained the services of Baker & McKenzie, a law firm.  Reportedly the move was designed to retain services to help prosecute cyber-criminals involved in the break in.

However, it may also be designed to beef up Sony's legal defense against customers.

A Toronto law firm on Tuesday announced a $1B CD ($1.05B USD) class-action suit against Sony for breach of privacy, naming a 21-year-old PlayStation user from Mississauga, Ontario, as the lead plaintiff. Lawyers for McPhadden Samac Tuovi LLP, say that the suit's requested damages would allow Sony's customers to purchase fraud prevention and credit monitoring service for two years.

It is likely that similar class action lawsuits will pop up in the U.S. and the European Union. 

Many Sony customers are upset not only about the possible loss of their credit card information, but also the loss of their usernames and passwords.  While hashed, it's possible that sophisticated hackers could reverse the hash, giving them access to potentially millions of users Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, and other accounts, given that they also have the users emails and real names (which were reportedly unhashed and unencrypted).



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Beenthere on 5/4/2011 12:53:47 PM , Rating: 2
I hope the security firms track down the hackers and the judicial system prosecutes them. Make them pay all damages and do 10 years in prison.




By phantom505 on 5/4/2011 12:59:28 PM , Rating: 2
And get all $2,000 they are worth, mostly in the desktop they used to steal the information.


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