£250,000 fine for Sony after PlayStation Network hack

Sony has been fined £250,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) following a serious breach of the Data Protection Act.

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The penalty imposed on Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited, follows the hacking of its PlayStation Network Platform in April 2011, which compromised the personal information of millions of customers. Names, postal and email addresses, dates of birth, account passwords and payment card details were all put at risk.

According to the ICO, the attack could have been prevented if the software had been up to date. Technical developments also meant that passwords were not secure.

The regulator's Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection, David Smith, commented:

“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."

Mr Smith continued “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. 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% 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.”

Sony has been reported as saying that it "strongly disagreed" with the ruling and planned to appeal. A spokesman said: "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."

Sony has rebuilt its Network Platform following the breach to ensure that the personal information it processes is kept secure.

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