Sony Customers Furious Over PlayStation Hacking

Sony has shut down a second video game network after another security breach. The successful cyber attacks have exposed customer information and pose a big risk to the company's reputation.

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Sony is still trying to determine how hackers broke into its networks two weeks ago. They had access, apparently, to personal information from about 100 million customer accounts, people who play games using the company's Playstation and its online gaming system. Many of those gamers are angry with the way Sony is handling the breech. NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN: John King is a student at the University of Maryland. He lives in a shared house, where clothes are strewn about and a Sony Playstation 3 gaming console occupies a prominent spot. But right now when he and a friend, Nathan Deselms, try to play the popular online game Battlefield 1943, all they get is the welcome screen.

Mr. JOHN KING (Student, University of Maryland): It is the game that my roommates and I would, like, play all the time, it's a lot of fun. But yeah, this game is useless.

KAUFMAN: Sony shut down its Playstation 3 network following the hacker attack and it remains down. Its PC online gaming network is down too.

Mr. KING: I play video games more than I watch TV. Can you imagine if there was no television for two weeks? You would be outraged. Like if Comcast - it was just no TV for two weeks, and then lost all your information, how like furious people would be.

KAUFMAN: Indeed, may Sony customers are furious. They can't play their games or use their console to download movies or surf the Internet like they used to. Moreover, they know that some of their personal information is likely to be in the hands of cyber thieves. Hackers stole information from 77 million Playstation accounts and information from nearly 25 million account holders using Sony's online gaming service for PCs.

Mr. BRIAN CRECENTE (Editor, Kotaku): We know that these two separate networks, Sony Online Entertainment and Playstation Network, both stored two sort of two types of data.

KAUFMAN: Brian Crecente, the editor in chief of Kotaku, a popular gaming site and blog, says some of the information was the stuff you might provide when filling out any online account.

Mr. CRECENTE: So that would include things like your user name, and your password for your user name, and then it might include things like your name, your address, sort of identifying information.

KAUFMAN: But he continues the thieves also got some financial information.

Mr. CRECENTE: Some people, not everybody, had connected to these networks their credit card information or their bank information so that they could purchases items or pay subscriptions.

KAUFMAN: Sony has tried to downplay the loss of financial data, but at this point the company itself may not know exactly what hackers got. Still, security experts say that even without credit or debit card numbers, sophisticated cyber thieves could do a lot of damage. Some privacy experts suggest that people may want to cancel credit cards linked to their Sony accounts or at the very least monitor financial statements for any unusual activity.

Larry Ponemon, an online privacy and Internet security expert, says data theft is becoming increasingly common, but the attack on Sony was extraordinary.

Mr. LARRY PONEMON (Internet Security Expert): I call it the mother of all data breaches. Number one, just the sheer size.

KAUFMAN: Number two, he says, is cost. Sony will likely pay dearly to fix its security weaknesses, defend itself in court, and restore its reputation. Gamers like University of Maryland student Nathan Deselms are already rethinking what they'll buy next.

Mr. NATHAN DESELMS (Student, University of Maryland): This is definitely going to defect my decision of what I play in the future. This looks terrible for Playstation and Sony. So it's definitely going to affect my decision of what I buy.

KAUFMAN: Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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