April 30, 2011

Sony Enlists FBI as US, Canadian Authorities Look into PSN Breach

The British government's Information Commissioner's Office announced it was opening an inquiry into the ongoing PlayStation Network outage and data leak. Now, US and Canadian government bodies have joined the chorus demanding answers about the exposure, which could potentially lead to the theft of up to 77 million PSN users' personal information.

Reuters reports that US Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-California) has asked members of the US House of Representatives' subcommittee for commerce, manufacturing, and trade to begin looking into the data leak. Mack, the widow of the late US Representative Sonny Bono, chairs the subcommittee, which will apparently soon weigh in on whether hearings are needed on the matter. Mack's move comes one day after US Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called on Sony to offer full disclosure to PSN users if their information was compromised.

Reuters also reports that Sony has contacted the San Diego office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's cybercrimes unit to look into the data breach. The news service could not get public comment, but it did cite unnamed sources as saying say the law enforcement body was investigating the matter.

Meanwhile, north of the border, Canadian authorities are also looking into the PSN debacle. Canada's privacy commissioner told the Vancouver Sun that it, too, is launching an inquiry.

"We are currently looking into this matter and are seeking information from Sony," a spokesperson said. "We will determine next steps once we have a full understanding of the incident."

Unfortunately for Sony, the worst may be yet to come. "European countries are going to go crazy and be all over this," Dan Burk, a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, told Reuters. "They are absolutely obsessed about companies holding personal information."

The increasing attention of government bodies is just the latest wrinkle in the increasingly convoluted timeline of the PlayStation Network outage and data leak. Earlier today, the first lawsuit over the matter was filed, with an Alabama man seeking class-action status on behalf of all PlayStation users whose accounts may have been compromised.

Credit card companies find no PSN-related activity

As the PSN outage and data leak drag on, Bloomberg has posted a pair of articles that add to the ongoing saga. First, the news service reports that financial companies Wells Fargo, American Express, and MasterCard have seen "no unauthorized activity relating to Sony." The news comes shortly after Sony announced that all PSN credit card information had been encrypted during the time of the leak and that there was "no evidence" that any had been stolen.

The credit card companies' revelation is a rare bright spot in the crisis, which is weighing heavily on the brow of one particular Sony executive. Bloomberg also reports that Kaz Hirai, who became head of Sony's entire consumer electronics business on April 1, is under a magnifying glass to see how he handles the ongoing debacle. The scrutiny is particularly intense as Hirai has extolled a plan to use the PlayStation Network as the basis of a content store that will extend to other Sony devices, such as HDTVs and Blu-ray players.

All eyes are now on Kaz Hirai

"Almost everything Hirai has been trying to do has an element of network," Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities analyst Masahiko Ishino told the news service. "Sony's strategy to connect its products through network is very crucial for the company's transformation. Sony may struggle if the business gets disrupted."

How Hirai copes with the PSN outage--which has already sparked government investigations and civil lawsuits--will likely affect his chances of succeeding current Sony Corp. CEO Sir Howard Stringer. As part of the announcement of Hirai's promotion, Stringer himself said that he was the frontrunner. "This is an opportunity for the board to watch Hirai-san and judge his performance," said Stringer.

Unfortunately for Sony, the market is already weighing in on the PSN outage. Today, Sony shares fell 4.5 percent to 2,260 ($27.71) on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. It was the largest decline for the company since the tragic earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in mid-March.

Credits: Gamespot Asia

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