Sony Hacked: When Technology Invades Privacy

One of the great things about virtual games is that you can lose yourself in cyberspace. You can have an entirely different personality, a different character, a different way of thinking. You can even be “not” you if you so choose. There are even instances that the “best you” comes about. You have your own private world with only your hovering mother to bug you when it’s past your bedtime and you have classes the next day.

I remember the time when I first played Mario, that chubby plumber with his brother Luigi (alright, I’m quite old and Mario Bros. was the only computer game that I played and enjoyed). I was in a world of my own trying to save a virtual princess, a princess whom, sad to say, I will never have in reality. How many hours did I lose playing that virtual game? I could no longer count them. Was it worth it? That depends, really. But not when my credit and debit cards’ security are in peril.

I am not talking about spending an arm and a leg buying the latest computer games. Why would I when I can play them online for a small fee? I am talking about the kind that consumers of virtual games play nowadays – the kind that Sony Corp. produces.

And just when Sony Corp. thought things were getting ugly, it became much worse when it found out, and reported to the media, that hackers may have stolen data of another 25 million accounts. This took place last April 16 and 17, ahead of the PlayStation breach that occurred from April 17 to 19 that jeopardized 77 million user accounts by malicious intrusion.

There is an estimated 23,400 financial records from an outdated 2007 database that involve customers outside the U.S. that may have been stolen in the newly reported breach. This includes 10,700 debit records of customers from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

The 2007 database include credit card numbers, debit card numbers and their expiration dates. However, it does not include the 3-digit security code on the back of credit cards. The direct debit records included bank account numbers, customer names as well as account names and customer addresses.

The result? Sony Corp. said that Sony Online Entertainment games’ service was shut down last Monday. This includes PC games that can be played on Facebook and the PlayStation 3 console. Sony’s popular games such as “DC Universe Online,” EverQuest” and Free Realms” are some of those that were included in the shut down.

Back to the Future

I feel for online gamers. The idea of being secure in a world of cyber creation with games played among friends has let them down. Sure this drawback is just a blip in computing advancement and they (the virtual gamers) will bounce back. But the reality is that reality is here to check us out. This reality is not only about playing our favorite virtual games. It also involves personal information such as names, addresses, emails, birthdates, and phone numbers. If Thomas Malthus, that gloomy prophet of population explosion, characterized deaths and calamities as nature’s way of checking and balancing human accounting, cyber attacks are a different kind of reality. To save us from a cataclysmic cyber meltdown, we depend on companies like Sony to secure our persons, papers and effects.

However, Sony was breached. It now begs the question, what happens to our quiet private persons? What happens when private information is stolen from a virtual host that we trusted would keep secure? What happens to our papers and effects?

Sony promised its users that it will grant 30 days of additional subscription time. That is on top of the free one day for each day their system is down. The company also said that it would offer freebies to welcome back its loyal users which include complimentary downloads and free service for 30 days to PlayStation customers worldwide. The apology list goes on. But it sounds more like a bucket list to me.

Sony executives apologized profusely and said they would beef up their security measures. They are even working with the FBI and other authorities who have jurisdiction over the matter to investigate.

Security Mismanagement Equals Lost Trust

Sony Corp. is mustering all its might to regain customer loyalty. They fear that their customers might shift to Microsoft’s Xbox. Why wouldn’t they?

Howard Stringer, Sony Corp.’s CEO has not yet commented on the issue and left the publicity management in the hands of Kazuo Hirai, whose chances of succession could also be jeopardized because of this blunder.

This breach is no longer an issue of private enjoyment in a virtual world. Not when one’s private information is falling in the hands of virtual marauders. It’s true that together with the quiet space we spend in virtual reality when we play virtual games, we want to experience some degree of anonymity. With Sony’s mismanagement, I think this is no longer the case.