Attacks/Breaches
4/27/2011
04:05 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Sony Sued Over PlayStation Network Hack

A class action lawsuit charges that Sony failing to protect personal information and credit card numbers of up to 77 million users.

10 Massive Security Breaches
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 10 Massive Security Breaches
Sony faces public condemnation as its PlayStation Network (PSN) outage enters its seventh day, combined with a security breach of users' personal information that may have exposed the credit card details of up to 77 million customers.

On Wednesday, Kristopher Johns, 36, of Birmingham, Ala., filed the first class action lawsuit, on behalf of all PSN users, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit alleges that Sony "failed to encrypt data and establish adequate firewalls to handle a server intrusion contingency, failed to provide prompt and adequate warnings of security breaches, and unreasonably delayed in bringing the PSN service back on line." It also accused Sony of violating the Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standard, which prohibits companies from storing cardholder data.

Sony pulled the plug on PSN and its Qriocity music service on Friday, three days after it discovered "an external intrusion," according to a blog post from Patrick Seybold, Sony's senior director of corporate communications and social media. The outage blocks users from playing online games as well as some users from accessing multiple services, including Netflix and Hulu Plus. At the time, Seybold said that Sony was attempting to resolve the situation quickly.

By Tuesday, Sony said that the PSN outage was continuing while it attempted to address a situation that was worse than it originally suspected. Namely, Sony's forensic investigation had discovered that a hacker had compromised the personal information of up to 77 million users.

In a letter sent to all PSN and Qriocity account holders, Sony said that "although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birth date, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID." In addition, the attacker may also have stolen users' purchase history, billing address, and password security questions.

Most alarmingly, however, "while there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility," said the Sony letter. "Out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained."

What should Sony's customers do to protect themselves? "If you have used the same username/e-mail address with the same password in some other service, change the password now. When PSN comes back online, change your password there as well," said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, in an email. Security experts also recommend canceling any potentially compromised credit cards.

In response to the breach, Sony said it had engaged a major security firm to investigate the intrusion and that it was going to "strengthen our network infrastructure by re-building our system to provide you with greater protection of your personal information." According to Sony, "our teams are working around the clock on this, and services will be restored as soon as possible."

What exactly might Sony be rebuilding? "Details of the 'rebuild' are not forthcoming so it's hard to identify exactly what they are changing. In my experience with such security issues, however, I would note that complex systems that are built lacking security are often incredibly difficult to debug and patch with security if they aren't built on good foundations," said James Lyne, director of technology strategy at Sophos, in an email interview. "Often, security with such large-scale data processing systems needs to be built into the architecture," and if it isn't, he said, the simplest way to create a secure approach is to simply start from scratch.

On the other hand, "time is of the essence" for Sony, hence "tactical patching in the existing infrastructure--to avoid additional exploits--followed by a complete design review, is a good strategy," he said.

Sony has no doubt started by addressing how a hacker managed to--potentially--steal credit card details for up to 77 million people, which puts it in apparent violation of PCI. Regardless, Lyne said that companies can do better. "The practices required by standards such as PCI are 'decent practices' but I would argue a great deal more could be done to avoid extensive exposure of credit card information," he said. "It's time to apply the lessons learned over the past few years and raise the bar."

Applying lessons learned may not, however, be Sony's strong suit, owing to its reputation for security incidents that spiral into PR disasters, owing to a lack of transparency. Notably, Sony earned mass condemnation--and saw at least one class action lawsuit--in 2005, when it installed a hidden rootkit on users' PCs to block them from copying Sony music CDs. Antivirus firms quickly designated the software, which was extremely difficult to uninstall, as spyware, and set their software to nuke it.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-3304
Published: 2014-10-30
Directory traversal vulnerability in Dell EqualLogic PS4000 with firmware 6.0 allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files via a .. (dot dot) in the default URI.

CVE-2013-7409
Published: 2014-10-30
Buffer overflow in ALLPlayer 5.6.2 through 5.8.1 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) and possibly execute arbitrary code via a long string in a .m3u (playlist) file.

CVE-2014-3446
Published: 2014-10-30
SQL injection vulnerability in wcm/system/pages/admin/getnode.aspx in BSS Continuity CMS 4.2.22640.0 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the nodeid parameter.

CVE-2014-3584
Published: 2014-10-30
The SamlHeaderInHandler in Apache CXF before 2.6.11, 2.7.x before 2.7.8, and 3.0.x before 3.0.1 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (infinite loop) via a crafted SAML token in the authorization header of a request to a JAX-RS service.

CVE-2014-3623
Published: 2014-10-30
Apache WSS4J before 1.6.17 and 2.x before 2.0.2, as used in Apache CXF 2.7.x before 2.7.13 and 3.0.x before 3.0.2, when using TransportBinding, does properly enforce the SAML SubjectConfirmation method security semantics, which allows remote attackers to conduct spoofing attacks via unspecified vect...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.