Did hackers really get credit card numbers from Sony?

Anonymous posts in an online forum claim 2.2 million card numbers were stolen, but there's no proof

Reports surfaced Friday that the hackers behind last week's breach of Sony's PlayStation Network obtained millions of credit card numbers, but the evidence so far appears weak.

Sony confirmed earlier this week that its PlayStation Network and Qriocity service had been hacked, and that there was a chance its customers' credit card numbers may have been compromised.

On Thursday, Trend Micro researcher Kevin Stevens posted a Twitter message that read: "The hackers that hacked PSN are selling off the DB [database]. They reportedly have 2.2 million credits cards with CVVs." CVVs are Card Verification Values, the security codes required for online transactions.

His source was chatter in underground hacker forums. "I have not seen the DB so I can not verify that it is true," he added.

A few hours later, Stevens seemed to think his tweet was being taken too seriously. "This #PSNHack is turning into a bunch of FUD, it really is. I posted up what I saw to warn people, not to incite the masses to create FUD," he wrote.

Later on Friday a Trend Micro spokesman declined to comment on the matter. A second company, Isec Partners, that had also claimed to see online discussion of the PlayStation Network hack, is also no longer talking publicly about the matter.

The evidence so far -- some anonymous boasts in underground hacker forums -- is "highly suspect," according to the Lo-Ping blog, which posted screenshots of the forum messages.

Sony did not respond to a request for comment.

E.J. Hilbert, president of Online Intelligence, which investigates fraud, thinks PlayStation hackers, called modders, may have accidentally stumbled upon the user data but not actually stolen it.

"I dont think there really was an intrusion," he said via e-mail. "I think the modders got access, Sony found it and freaked out. Technically that is an intrusion, but it's possible nothing was stolen," he said.

"From Sony's view, they just dont know what if anything was taken, so it is better to claim intrusion then to [wait and] 'see what happens,'" he said.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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