Sony has target on back thanks to hackers

Why is Sony -- a major player in the worlds of gaming, movies and music -- suddenly in the crosshairs of hackers?

It's not such a happy time over at Sony these days thanks to the bull's-eye on its back.

But why is Sony -- a major player in the worlds of gaming, movies and music -- suddenly in the crosshairs of hackers?

Sony's reputation for aggressively trying to protect its intellectual property rights may provide some clues.

Purdue University security expert Gene Spafford, who testified before Congress about Sony's security problems, said there are plenty of examples. He cited Sony banning users who modded their PlayStations, the infamous case of installing "rootkits" on PCs of users as copy control for CD, and lawsuits it has filed against the likes of George Hotz and Jammie Thomas.

Hotz, a hacker known for unlocking the iPhone, riled up Sony when he started a blog to document his progress hacking the PlayStation 3, which was regarded as being a locked and secure system. Thomas got caught up in a music piracy case, accused by the recording industry of sharing songs on the file-sharing site Kazaa.

"The image that has emerged from all this is that Sony is a rapacious corporation with no heart," Spafford said. "Thus, it is not surprising that they might be a target for hackers."

Fast-forward and you have the malicious attack on the PlayStation Network that compromised millions of user accounts and identities. And once word got out that Sony was not doing as good a job on the security side as it should be, the sharks could smell blood in the water.

Sony became ensnarled in almost constant attacks on all fronts, from phishing sites running on the servers of its Thai website to the most recent breaches by the merry hacksters known as LulzSec.

Here's a quick timeline of the attacks:

*June 2 -- Lulzsec attacks Sonypictures.com, gains access to user information.

*May 24 -- Sony confirms hackers stole 2,000 records from Sony's Canadian site.

*May 23 -- Sony BMG server in Greece hacked, user account info stolen.

*May 19-20 -- $1,200 worth of virtual tokens stolen from So-Net, a Sony subsidiary; phishing site found on Thai Sony server.

*May 2 -- Sony acknowledges over 12,000 credit card numbers were stolen during initial PSN attacks.

*April 17 -- PlayStation Network hacked, hackers gain access to personal info of over 77 million users.

Computer security expert and former hacker Gregory Evans said Sony would be well-served to hire ex-hackers instead of IT managers to help secure its networks.

"Anyone can configure a firewall, but (it) does not mean you are a security expert," he said.

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Eric Mack

PC World (US online)
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