Sony Goes From Having Only 4 Security Employees to Super-Serious
March 12, 2012 3:22 PM
Leading the transformation are security leaders like ex-McAfee chief Brett Wahlin, now Sony's CSO
Sony Corp. (
) surprisingly has not been digitally attacked [
] by hackers for some time now. No,
hasn't discovered a new love for the Japanese gadget maker. Rather, Sony has finally stepped up to the plate in terms of
spending on security
and encouraging innovative visions to protect its massive worldwide customer base.
In terms of customers, Sony is one of the world's few firms that can claim to have
hundreds of millions of customers
on platforms that it solely designs. Only a handful of other firms -- Microsoft Corp. (
), Apple, Inc. (
), and Google Inc. (
) share this kind of position. Moreover, Sony -- along with Microsoft -- was an early proponent of online console gaming with its PlayStation Network.
Yet, according to a terrific
, in 2011 -- before the string of intrusions -- Sony's number of security-specific employees worldwide could be
counted on one hand
-- 4. No, they aren't joking.
Pair an internet oriented firm with virtually no security and then mix in a hate-vendetta by
and what do you get? It doesn't take rocket science to see why Sony became the laughingstock of the security world in 2011.
But amid the debacle the company's leadership woke up. Their most important decision was to hire former McAfee security officer Brett Wahlin as its chief security officer. The security games by
-- particularly their highly successful social engineering efforts -- were nothing new to Mr. Wahlin. After all, he started his career during an eight-year stint with the U.S. military during the Cold War era.
Sony's new security chief honed his craft battling the Russians and Chinese.
[Image Source: Asia Society]
He recalls in the interview, "You start to see a lot of similarities to the social engineering tradecraft in the Cold War... they have a discrete set of characteristics and targets and if we can begin to adapt some of the pattern recognition to a digital-based [environment]... we may be able to detect fraud more effectively."
Under Mr. Wahlin's leadership a new security operations center (SOC) has been created, in partnership with security contractor ArcSight, Inc. and hardware provider Hewlett-Packard Comp. (
). The Sony CSO hopes to emulate the successes of top security teams like the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Group. Among his tools are automated defenses, penetration testing, and regular code audits.
As mentioned, the results are paying off -- Sony hasn't been hacked lately. And even when it has suffered the occasional intrusion, it's
locked it down
before much damage could be done.
Now Brett Wahlin has a new adversary --
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]
Taking on the Russians with U.S. military, and
later the Chinese
(or "state-sponsored guys" as Mr. Wahlin ambiguously refers to them as in the piece) was hard enough, but taking on
is a brand new and potentially greater challenge. But while Mr. Wahlin may not be able to stop every single attack, he is the face of a new era for Sony, a company that went from having four security employees to having a solid security task force, manned by some of the world's best and brightest. As they say,
is the mother of invention.
Be sure to check out
's full interview for more commentary by Mr. Wahlin and his transition from
fighting Russian and Chinese spies
"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone
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