Nearly two years after attackers began what turned out to be a long series of intrusions at Sony, most notably with the PlayStation Network data breach, authorities in the U.K. have fined the company the equivalent of almost $400,000 for not being careful enough with customer data.
The Sony PSN data breach unfolded over the course of several weeks in the spring of 2011 after attackers compromised one of the company’s databases and were able to access what turned out to be data belonging to 77 million PSN customers. Sony had to shut down PSN, the company’s online gaming community, for a couple of weeks while it investigated the breach and tried to work out what had happened and what data was taken.
In early May 2011, the chairman of Sony sent a letter to the U.S. House Commerce Committee, saying that the company had been the victim of a highly sophisticated attack.
“What is becoming more and more evident is that Sony has been the victim of a very carefully planned, very professional, highly sophisticated criminal cyber attack designed to steal personal and credit card information for illegal purposes,” Kazuo Hirai, chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said in the letter.
The company also said that Sony was the target of a series of DDoS attacks at the same time that the PSN attackers were inside the Sony network. But the problems didn’t end there. In June 2011 attackers went back at Sony, stealing data from the company’s movie arm.
In levying the £250,000 fine against Sony, the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office said that Sony had not taken proper care with user data, resulting in the breach.
“If you are responsible for so many payment card details and log-in details then keeping that personal data secure has to be your priority. In this case that just didn’t happen, and when the database was targeted – albeit in a determined criminal attack – the security measures in place were simply not good enough,” David Smith, deputy commissioner and director of data protection, said in a statement.
“There’s no disguising that this is a business that should have known better. It is a company that trades on its technical expertise, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they had access to both the technical knowledge and the resources to keep this information safe. The penalty we’ve issued today is clearly substantial, but we make no apologies for that.”
The penalty notice issued by the ICO is lengthy and contains quite a lot of redactions for some reason, even though much of the details of the attack, its results and the data stolen have been known for some time. In the notice, the ICO says that although Sony had some security measures in place at the time of the attacks, those defenses weren’t good enough.
“The Commissioner is aware that the data controller made some efforts to protect account passwords. However the data controller failed to ensure that the Network Platform service provider kept up with technical developments. Therefore the means used would not, at the time of the attack, be deemed appropriate, given the technical resources available to the data controller,” the penalty notice said.