San Diego Business Journal

Hacker Also Hit Sony Online Entertainment

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sony Online Entertainment, the San Diego-based developer and provider of online games for multiple players, said May 2 it shut down its services and is notifying customers that their personal information may have been stolen in a massive hacking event in April.

The unit of Tokyo-based Sony Corp. has been scrambling along with another Sony subsidiary based in Foster City called Sony Computer Entertainment America in response to the hacking event that occurred April 17-19. Several days after the intrusion, which is still under investigation, SCEA shut down its PlayStation Network gaming service and its Qriocity movie streaming service.

In the past few days, Sony Corp. acknowledged that hackers may have stolen personal data from about 24.6 million accounts as well as information from an outdated database from 2007 which includes about 12,700 non-U.S. credit and debit card numbers and expiration dates, but not the card’s security codes, as well as about 10,700 direct debit records of customers in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

The company said it previously believed that SOE customers weren’t affected by the April cyber attacks, but on May 1 it concluded that personal information in the accounts may have been stolen, and began notifying every customer.

In addition to shutting down its SOE services, the company said it is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and continuing its own investigation.

The personal information that may have been stolen from SOE’s 24.6 million accounts are customer names, addresses, e-mail addresses, birth dates, genders, phone numbers, login names and hashed passwords, the company said.

As part of a compensation program resulting from the hacking and subsequent shutdown, SOE said it is granting customers 30 days of additional time on subscriptions, along with one day for each day the system is down.

A compensation program for customers of Sony PlayStation has not been arranged yet, but will be released later this week, Sony said.

In addition, Sony said it will provide customers with a complimentary offering to help users enroll in an identity theft protection service.

Sony said it has notified customers that they should be aware of any potential scams arriving by e-mail, phone or mail that may request personal information such as credit card numbers or Social Security numbers.

“If you are asked this information, you can be confident Sony is not the entity asking,” SOE said on its Web site. “When SOE’s services are fully restored, we strongly recommend that you log on and change your password.”

SOE reported March 31 that it was shutting down three development offices in Denver, Seattle and Tucson, Ariz., which were involved in the production of a new multiplayer game so that it could focus on two other multiplayer games for its PlanetSide and Everquest platforms. The office closures affected 205 employees, SOE said then. Last year, SOE said its total employment was about 1,000.

Sony Corp. also operates another sizable subsidiary in Rancho Bernardo called Sony Electronics which encompasses the development and manufacture of Vaio laptops, research and development, a digital imaging division and administrative functions.

The unit also operates a maquiladora in Tijuana that has an average employment of 6,000.

— Mike Allen