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4/29/2011
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Sony Says PlayStation Credit Card Data Was Encrypted

Security Experts Say 'So What?' PlayStation account-holder data likely still at risk.

As events unfold around the PlayStation Network data breach that exposed personally identifiable information for 77 million accounts, Sony has announced that it did encrypt credit card data contained within the database accessed by hackers. But many security experts believe that wasn't nearly enough protection to fully safeguard consumer data, and that the incident is a good example of how the compliance-centric security focus endemic to the enterprise keeps a lot of information at risk.

In a blog post yesterday, Sony said that all relevant credit card information attached to the breached records were encrypted. "The entire credit card table was encrypted and we have no evidence that credit card data was taken," wrote Sony. "While all credit card information stored in our systems is encrypted and there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility."

Security experts believe that the lack of details around this announcement shows that consumers may still be at risk of this data being used by whoever hacked Sony. Word of the hack came earlier this week.

"They're not certain credit card data wasn't lost," says Phil Lieberman, CEO of Lieberman Software. "The only statement they made was that credit card data was encrypted, which is a requirement of PCI."

And even if that data was fully shielded from prying eyes, the other data definitely exposed by the breach should be plenty enough to raise a lot of concerns.

"In a way, it is bigger than it looks," says Jon Heimerl, director of strategic security for Solutionary. "When they start getting passwords, security questions, addresses and the other types of information they got, that exposes consumers to a lot of vulnerabilities and issues not just at the Sony site but elsewhere as well."

The Sony breach is just one of a growing list of hacks involving non-regulated data that are starting to raise eyebrows among security and privacy experts, including the Epsilon breach that most recently caused an uproar. According to Gretchen Hellman, vice president of marketing and product management for Vormetric, many organizations such as Sony only use encryption to protect very specific credit card data as laid out by PCI. That's leaving a lot of other very valuable information easily within reach of motivated hackers, Hellman says.

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