Privacy watchdog says Sony failed to keep its software and security procedures up-to-date and compromised millions of people's personal information
Sony has been fined £250,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for a "serious breach" of the Data Protection Act (DPA) during which millions of customers' personal details were compromised.
The entertainment company was severely criticised by the privacy watchdog for not being able to prevent the attack on its PlayStation network platform in April 2011.The hackers were able to get access to people's names, addresses, email addresses, dates of birth and account passwords. The regulator said customers' payment card details were also at risk.
David Smith, Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection, said: "The penalty we've issued today is clearly substantial, but we make no apologies for that.
"The case is one of the most serious ever reported to us. It directly affected a huge number of consumers, and at the very least put them at risk of identity theft."
Companies holding and processing people's personal data must ensure that this information is kept as secure as possible. Known as data controllers they must keep up with technological advances and increasingly sophisticated online threats.
Sony failed in this department when it was hit by a series of 'denial of service' attacks in April 2011.
The attacker(s) accessed the personal data, which the ICO noted in some cases had been used by customers and Sony to control access to other online and offline services. The privacy watchdog placed the blame for this breach squarely on Sony's shoulders.
The ICO said it found that Sony's software was not up to date. It also pointed out that technical developments meant passwords were not secure. If these flaws had not been there, the ICO said the attack could have been prevented.
Smith said: "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.
"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."
Following the breach, Sony rebuilt its Network Platform to ensure that the personal information it processes is kept secure.
According to the ICO there was one positive outcome from this high profile attack.
"If there's any bright side to this it's that a PR Week poll shortly after the breach found the case had left 77 per cent of consumers more cautious about giving their personal details to other websites.
"Companies certainly need to get their act together but we all need to be careful about who we disclose our personal information to," added Smith.
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