Cyber security is becoming increasingly important as more everyday transactions take place on the Internet.
Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) announced in April that its PlayStation Network (PSN) had been “hacked” and that an unidentified intruder may now possess every bit of personal data ever uploaded by its clients onto its servers.
The list of information includes names, telephone numbers, birth dates, email addresses, personal and billing addresses, credit card numbers, account passwords, PSN passwords and even purchasing data collated and stored by SCEA.
Somewhere between 70 and 100 million PSN clients have been exposed to the security breach, which SCEA chairman Kazuo Hirai said may have been made by the hacker’s collective known as Anonymous, which the chairman said had been initiating denial of service (DDoS) attacks against SCEA since January.
Anonymous is an organization, but it is also a label used by many independent hackers who participate in “hacktivism” in support of Internet freedom and freedom of speech. The organization, however, has denied any involvement in the hack, challenging that its schemes are benign and intended only to raise awareness.
The seriousness of the attack has put the spotlight on the need for increased commercial cybersecurity, and the US government is insisting on more transparency from Sony about how the attack occurred, its practices and its failure to immediately alert its clients upon learning that their personal information may have been compromised. It has also asked several national and foreign government agencies to investigate, including the FBI.
While Sony’s PSN services are now back, clients are wondering what they should be doing. Cybersecurity and criminal justice experts warn that credit cards must be monitored and passwords must be changed.
The problem, they say, is that many people use the same passwords for most or all of their Internet transactions because it makes them easier to remember as the need for more passwords continues to grow. One previous hack revealed that the majority of passwords collected were either “12345” or “password” and that these were likely used interchangeably with other accounts.
Cybersecurity must evolve, but Internet users must also realize the dangers involved with Internet transactions and practice vigilance as well. Ensuring that websites and businesses are legitimate and have cybersecurity measures in place is the first step; protecting oneself by creating difficult and different passwords and changing them often is the second step, and just as important as the first, as the attack on Sony has proven.
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