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Sony fined £250,000 over 'serious' failings in PSN hack

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Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) has today been fined £250,000 over "one of the most serious ever" breaches of the UK Data Protection Act in the hack on the PlayStation Network (PSN) in 2011.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) levied the fine after finding that millions of PlayStation customers had their personal information, including credit card details, compromised in the security breach in April 2011.

However, SCEE has said that it "strongly disagrees" with the ICO's ruling and is planning to appeal it.

Playstation Network logo

© Sony

An ICO investigation revealed that names, addresses, email addresses, dates of birth, account passwords and payment card details were put at risk in the PSN hack by criminals.

But the watchdog also found that the attack "could have been prevented" if Sony's security software on the PSN had been "up to date", while technical developments also meant that user passwords "were not secure".

David Smith, deputy commissioner and director of data protection, said that that Sony should have made it a "priority" to secure the log-in and payment details of so many customers, but in this case "it just didn't happen".

"When the database was targeted - albeit in a determined criminal attack - the security measures in place were simply not good enough," he said in a damning verdict on Sony's conduct.

"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 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."

PlayStation Network Welcome Back
Smith said that the "bright side" of the PSN hack was that 77% of customers said that they were "more cautious" about giving away their personal details after the incident, according to a PR Week poll.

"Companies certainly need to get their act together but we all need to be careful about who we disclose our personal information to." he said.

However, SCEE has said that it does not accept the ICO's findings and feels that it was the victim of a concerted attack on its network by cyber criminals.

"The ICO recognises Sony was the victim of 'a focused and determined criminal attack', that 'there is no evidence that encrypted payment card details were accessed', and that 'personal data is unlikely to have been used for fraudulent purposes' following the attack on the PlayStation Network," SCEE said in a statement issued to MCV.

"Criminal attacks on electronic networks are a real and growing aspect of 21st century life and Sony continually works to strengthen our systems, building in multiple layers of defence and working to make our networks safe, secure and resilient.

"The reliability of our network services and the security of our consumers' information are of the utmost importance to us, and we are appreciative that our network services are used by even more people around the world today than at the time of the criminal attack."

Following the breach in 2011, Sony has rebuilt the PlayStation Network platform to ensure personal details are kept more secure.

Watch a video below featuring David Smith discussing Sony's £250,000 fine:

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