Sony’s Nightmare Continues

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Holy mare, Sony are in a mess. Today, they’ve confirmed reports of a massive financial hack that has put all of their customers at risk of being ripped-off by fraudsters – and if you’re a PSN or Qriocity user, that means you!

You’ll know by now that PSN has been down for days, with suspicion at first falling on politicised hacker group Anonymous who hobbled the service a few weeks back – though this time they’ve denied involvement. Over the last couple of days, stories had begun to leak out that this wasn’t a bunch of pesky hackers, but actually a raid on the payment details of PSN’s millions-strong database. In a mass email to users today, Sony confirmed “We have discovered that between April 17 and April 19, 2011, certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network.”

Scary stuff – but it gets worse. Their message goes on to say: “we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address (city, state/province, zip or postal code), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID. It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained.”

And, worst of all, the big news that credit card data has been hacked also seems to be confirmed, with Sony saying: “While there is no evidence that credit card data was taken at this time, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, to be on the safe side we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained.”

This whole PlayStation Network saga has become a nightmare that could put a serious dent in their dreams of dominating pay-per-view home entertainment. The question is whether it’s given a leg-up to their rivals, or scared everyone off completely. See, bundling everything online – pay-tv, game downloads, microtransaction gaming – is all great as long as people trust you with their payment details. No trust, no using credit cards, no service. Simple as that. Sony could lose millions in refunding claims if people’s credit cards are used illegally – but that would pale in comparison if their whole userbase decides they can’t take another risk with their financial security and shifts off to a rival service like Xbox Live.

Sony must be praying that users figure the risk is equally applicable to other services. That way, there might be a slowdown in the takeup of the online universe, but the pain will be shared. Sadly for them, on the back of the recent outages, Sony’s whole profile looks shaky. While I’m tempted to pull back from some other sites, I wouldn’t touch Sony’s site with an ugly-naked-guy-poking-sized barge-pole. If others feel the same way, they’re in for a major hit – one that wouldn’t just hurt them now, but could restrict their involvement in the online future and see their rivals surge ahead. It’s all a big “if”, but it’s that serious for Sony.

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