The PSN Breach: A 5 Point Summary

So, most gamers out there would have been keeping a close eye on the debacle that was the PlayStation Network breach, which has resulted in several weeks of downtime for gamers and consumers of its associated services. I, too, was mildly affected by the downtime. It wasn’t so bad for me – I had several other entertainment options at hand – but what is truly worrying is that my personal information is out there somewhere in the wild, being used to take out ridiculously sized loans, purchase inappropriate pornography, or whatever it is that online villains do.

Anyway, I’m currently living in Japan and I still can’t log into my AU PSN account (maybe due to the government intervention? Not sure if it’s just Japanese PSN accounts or the actual infrastructure, but it appears to be the latter). In the meantime, I thought I’d sum up my thoughts on the whole situation.

1. Sony Screwed Up.

No doubt about it, Sony shat the bed on this one. They were entrusted with their users’ personal information and credit card details. For a company of their size, one would expect that they would have appropriate means to safely store and secure such sensitive information, lest something bad happen and tarnish their already tenuous image.

Unfortunately, this didn’t appear to be the case.

Now, no system is perfect or invulnerable, and Sony remarked that the attacks were sophisticated and well-organised (and since they’re pointing the finger at Anonymous, this comes as a little surprising to me). I imagine that Sony’s systems would be nightmarishly complex, and keeping a beast like this protected would certainly be no mean feat. However, Sony was entrusted with sensitive information and they owe a duty of care to keep this information private, secure and safe to the best of their ability. Anything less is indicative of irresponsible corporate practice. To me, it feels a little too late to be boosting encryption, enhancing early warning detection systems and whatnot after the fact. Sony is definitely entitled to the right to accept responsibility for what has happened.

The delay in releasing information to the public was concerning, but understandable I suppose. I can imagine that an intrusion analysis of a system like this would certainly be a timely exercise, and I also understand pre-emptively telling customers that several million accounts may have been hacked would be horrible PR and would spawn a whole raft of rumours. I would have appreciated some emails to my PSN account’s email address, rather than getting information second-hand from gaming news outlets.

2. The Attack Was Unjustified.

But despite all this, the attack was still “a bad thing”. It doesn’t matter how “evil” Sony is perceived to be whether it be due to malware, Geohotz or other things. It doesn’t matter that PSN is “free”, and therefore we shouldn’t be surprised that it has been hacked. The attack was malicious and with done with potential criminal intent, and as such the perpetrators should be prosecuted accordingly, rather than hailed as renegade Internet heroes striking back at “big corporate”. The best way to show your opposition to a company is to not support their products or services, rather than thieving data and getting consumers and employees caught in the crossfire.

Also, the notion that PSN users get the quality of service they pay for (i.e. $0) is rubbish. PSN connectivity is advertised as part of the PS3 package, and most likely is funded by adding a bit of “cream” on top of retail pricing for PS3 games or similar means. It must get paid for in some way, shape or form other than via a subscription-based service, and we’re the ones doing it.

3. The Only Thing Worse Than A Fan-boy Is An Anti Fan-boy.

This whole situation has really brought out the worst in people. I know, I know – it’s the Internet and it’s a fucking horrible place, but come on. Do these people really, truly exist? Can’t they just be some kind of sick, twisted forum bot that someone coded up for a laugh? Because some of these people honestly act like the trailer trash of the gaming community, except with a lot less teenage sex.

I inevitably click on 1UP links in my news feeds, and I both dread and yearn reading the comments section of each PSN related article. It’s both sickening and fascinating, like watching an episode of Jerry Springer or Maury.

People are so blindly loyal to Sony that they will instantly attack and abuse anyone that even suggests an air of criticism. (The latest comment I’ve read calls someone out as a “worthless unloyal (sp) bitch”.) Likewise, the number of comments jumping on the “let’s-crucify-Sony-and-stone-them-with-flasks-of-acid” bandwagon is also pretty depressing. I think my favourite comment so far is that Sony supporters should be “raped and shot”.

I mean, Jesus. Just…wow. All I wanted to do was play Uncharted, for fuck’s sake.

4. We Are Entitled To Things Up To A Certain Point (and anything else is just icing).

It is good PR to show customers you’re remorseful, and Sony’s offering is remorse enough. The credit fraud protection was a suitable move. Extensions on various subscriptions such as PlayStation Plus and Qriocity were also appropriate. Anything else is a gesture of good will – the Welcome Back package offers some respectable game titles for free. Free. (I understand that more loyal users would most likely already have these titles in their collection, and would be somewhat sour at the free game offer. I guess it’s hard to please everyone.)

Furthermore, there’s no need for Howard Stringer to bow, prostrate, or commit seppuku in order to beg for forgiveness from the masses. Drawing a connection between the actions of the Japanese CEOs and the US CEO is bunk. Japanese people bow when expressing regret because it’s a crucial element of their culture. Why would an American need to do the same?

5. Lessons Should Be Learned.

Totally obvious, but I’m going for it anyway. Sony should learn to manage the expectations of gamers (which are impossibly high to begin with, but such is the nature of the business). Judging from the responses on the PSN blog, transparency and timeliness are key in this particular situation. When people start using phrases such as “veil of silence”, it doesn’t sound good. Likewise, consumers should learn from this experience and be careful with who they trust their personal information with. It just goes to show that we should always be mindful of what we choose to expose to others.

In conclusion, bad shit went down and it’s going to keep hurting for a while. In the meantime, let’s all hope that we can hurdle any obstacles that come up and get back to what we all came here for in the first place – gaming.

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3 Responses to The PSN Breach: A 5 Point Summary

  1. FenderReplica says:

    An insightful read, good job mate. I still find it is impossible to log into my UK PSN account and it is frustrating to try logging in PSN everyday, just to be greeted by the PSN going through maintenance BS. I have been suspecting they have some sort of white list on IPs for the restting of passwords. Could this be the reason that I still can’t log into PSN, while local players in UK are enjoying their online gaming sessions? It would be so unfair if it is true. What’s your take on my speculation?

  2. stirlace says:

    If you’re living in Japan (may also affect most of Asia-Pac?) then you won’t be able to access PSN just yet – the Japanese government is preventing Sony from restarting their networks in Japan until they do the following:
    – Complete “preventative measures” proposed on May 1st;
    – Present an explanation as to how to “regain consumer confidence” re: personal information (like CC numbers).

    The second point is a very open-ended request, and will probably take longer than I’d like to be resolved…

    If you’re not in Japan, then it’s probably simply due to the amount of mandatory password reset requests being received by Sony; hopefully by now their queues are not so flooded. According to the EU PSN blog, they also noted that some ISPs are bouncing emails from PSN due to the sheer amount of traffic being sent. If you’re in this situation, they recommend to hang tight and wait – you could also try and get a hold of a Moderator or Administrator and hopefully get them to move your request along…?

    Here’s hoping we both get online soon – I’ve been itching to try out some Killzone 3 multiplayer…

  3. FenderReplica says:

    Thanks for the explaination stirlace. I know we all have to wait but it is just disheartening to be greeted by the maintanence message day after day, when I turn on my PS3 to check if I could log on again

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