Richard Blumenthal Sends Letter to Sony Over PSN Data Theft

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is not happy with Sony’s revelation today that user data and credit card information may have been stolen from PlayStation Network users (thanks to gellymatos). He is so unhappy that he has sent a letter to Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America. In his letter to SCEA, Blumenthal noted that SCEA failed its customers by not informing them sooner.

"When a data breach occurs, it is essential that customers be immediately notified about whether and to what extent their personal and financial information has been compromised… I am concerned that PlayStation Network users’ personal and financial information may have been inappropriately accessed by a third party,"

The full letter can be found below:

Dear Mr. Tretton:

I am writing regarding a recent data breach of Sony’s PlayStation Network service. I am troubled by the failure of Sony to immediately notify affected customers of the breach and to extend adequate financial data security protections.

It has been reported that on April 20, 2011, Sony’s PlayStation Network suffered an “external intrusion” and was subsequently disabled. News reports estimate that 50 million to 75 million consumers – many of them children – access the PlayStation Network for video and entertainment. I understand that the PlayStation Network allows users to store credit card information online to facilitate the purchasing of content such as games and movies through the PlayStation Network. A breach of such a widely used service immediately raises concerns of data privacy, identity theft, and other misuse of sensitive personal and financial data, such as names, email addresses, and credit and debit card information.

When a data breach occurs, it is essential that customers be immediately notified about whether and to what extent their personal and financial information has been compromised. Additionally, PlayStation Network users should be provided with financial data security services, including free access to credit reporting services, for two years, the costs of which should be borne by Sony. Affected individuals should also be provided with sufficient insurance to protect them from the possible financial consequences of identity theft.

I am concerned that PlayStation Network users’ personal and financial information may have been inappropriately accessed by a third party. Compounding this concern is the troubling lack of notification from Sony about the nature of the data breach. Although the breach occurred nearly a week ago, Sony has not notified customers of the intrusion, or provided information that is vital to allowing individuals to protect themselves from identity theft, such as informing users whether their personal or financial information may have been compromised. Nor has Sony specified how it intends to protect these consumers.

PlayStation Network users deserve more complete information on the data breach, as well as the assurance that their personal and financial information will be securely maintained. I appreciate your prompt response on this important issue.



Richard Blumenthal
United States Senate


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  1. 0
    Thad says:

    "OMG HACKERS HAVE YOUR DATA" will get more sympathy.

    Hardly.  This is a PR nightmare for Sony, and they’re already looking at class action suits.

    A simple outage is bad, but a security breach of this magnitude is far, far worse.  Yes, ultimately whoever stole the data is to blame, but Sony is liable if it didn’t follow simple best-practice security procedures.

    I wouldn’t put it past Sony to overreact to a potential hack — obviously it’s already done that in the OtherOS case — but lying about having its entire subscriber base’s personal information potentially accessed would be absurd.

    Claiming criminal negligence makes for a pretty poor sympathy play.

  2. 0
    Neeneko says:

    I am not even sure if I believe Sony’s story at this point.

    If they are willing to lie (or at least massively distort) information in official court documents, I doubt they would have any ethical issues with explaining the outage in terms of customer records being accessed.

    I would not be surprised if it was the dev net => free stuff loophole that was posted a bit before the network went down.. then when they were unable to patch it quickly they came up with an exuse that sounded better then ‘well, a small number of people were able to buy on-line content for free’.. since "OMG HACKERS HAVE YOUR DATA" will get more sympathy.

  3. 0
    Craig R. says:

    And I’ve known people who have had theirs RROD half a dozen times.

    It isn’t old until the problem is fixed once and for all. And that will never happen.

  4. 0
    Thad says:

    They only found out FOR SURE that it was stolen yesterday.

    They’ve had reason to SUSPECT it had been stolen for nearly a week.  That’s why they shut the service down in the first place.

  5. 0
    State says:

    Don’t believe it personally. If it took that long to realise that user data may have been taken then they really have no idea how to manage a database or a network and it would be surprising if with that level of ignorance the company was still in existence today.

  6. 0
    The-Adder says:

    Really? You can’t see what difference it makes to inform someone their credit card information may have been stolen in less than just under a week?

  7. 0
    State says:

    Once the data’s stolen, it’s stolen. I can’t see how delaying the announcement that data had been stolen makes any difference. And I can’t see how having the network down breaks your console, I’ve been happily playing games offline on my PS3 this week (after my 360 RROD’ed), although of course I could’ve played Mario Galaxy on my Wii instead. :p

  8. 0
    State says:

    A standard DBA could’ve told you what data was accessed within an hour, it’s a fairly simple task. And even now the email is full of "MAY HAVE"s, they’re either not certain about it or are trying to tone down this PR disaster.

    The whole situation is highly unprofessional, and coming from a company as large as Sony, unacceptable. Sony are indefensible over this whole matter.

  9. 0
    Thad says:

    It’s not going to get their credit card data un-stolen, but it IS a form of financial retaliation: You didn’t treat me right, so you’re not getting any more of my money.

    It’s not a new idea, it’s simple free-market economics.

  10. 0
    Thad says:

    Again, that’s nonsense.

    They knew there was a security breach and that data had been POTENTIALLY stolen; that’s why they shut the network down in the FIRST place.

    They waited to come clean to their customers until they were absolutely certain they had to, instead of doing it as soon as they knew there was a threat.

  11. 0
    Thad says:

    "That said, Sony’s action against him probably inspired whoever is pulling this off."

    Possibly.  Though if it’s really about stealing credit card information, no political motivation is necessary.

  12. 0
    CMiner says:

    Out of context quote of the day:

    "…user data and credit card information may have been stolen from PlayStation Network users (thanks to gellymatos)"


  13. 0
    Parallax Abstraction says:

    If he is, then he’s violating the agreement he made with Sony and will probably get himself ruined financially if not jailed. I have little sympathy for GeoHot and whatever good he’s convinced himself he’s doing for the world but he’s not an idiot. That said, Sony’s action against him probably inspired whoever is pulling this off.

    Parallax Abstraction
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

  14. 0
    Sabrel says:

    The difficulty of the matter is largely irrelevant, especially when most of the difficulty is caused by corporate culture, rather than an actual technical problem. A company that stores customer data has a responsbility to secure that data and, failing that, inform customers as soon as humanly possible when that data is compromised so that they can take measures to ensure that their losses as a result of the company’s failure are minimized.

    Sony dropped the ball by failing to properly secure their systems. Now nobody is perfect, and neither is any security, so it does happen. However, they dropped the ball again by taking this long to notify their consumers that their personal information may have been compromised. Any corporate bureaucracy that slowed the notification down is another failure, not a mitigating excuse.

  15. 0
    Left4Dead says:

    Umm…Sony is a large corporation.  Frankly, I’m impressed they managed to figure out they had a problem, that someone made the decision to take the entire Playstation Network offline, and then turn around and figure out exactly what data was stolen.  You know how hard it is to do all that in a large corporate environment?  Clearly, at this point, it is pretty obvious that PSN has been severely compromised but this letter was uncalled for.  Given the severity of the issue, A five day turnaround response time on this is pretty remarkable.

    What Sony needs to do now is hire some real programmers and IT admins who know how to write code defensively and maintain a secure network infrastructure so this sort of breach never happens again.  And they still need to determine for certain whether or not credit card numbers were stolen.  Regardless, the information extracted is still sufficient to steal the identities of most of those people who own a PS3.

    – Left4Dead

    Why are zombies always eating brains? I want to see zombies that eat toes for a living. Undead-related pun intended.

    -- Left4Dead --

  16. 0
    Craig R. says:

    Well, it’s pick your poison at this point: have all your info possibly stolen or have your console break again and again. Although, Nintendo is more than happy to have you buy another Mario game. 😛

  17. 0
    State says:

    He does make some important points. The fact that it has taken Sony so long to realise that data was stolen (or to make it public) is unacceptable and it will be interesting to know at what time the data was stolen after the attacks started. Questions have to be asked as to why only now being told about this.

    This is disastrous for Sony and no doubt a massive promotion for Microsoft’s Xbox Live. Microsoft being predominately a software firm you would hope that they would handle this situation much better, Sony currently appear to be clueless and for a company of that size it is not good.

    Coming from a software firm myself I know that these delays are unacceptable.

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