Sony Proves How Internet Security Is Relevant

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online securityOnline crimes are often similar to other crimes in that you never think they’ll happen to you. We hear stories about identity theft all the time, but most of us don’t pay attention because they’re happening to someone else. Unfortunately, Sony’s recent security breach proves that we’re all just someone else depending on how you look at it.

I, like millions of other people who use the Playstation Network (PSN), received an email from Sony on April 26 announcing the following:

“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.”

Furthermore, the email goes on to say that an “unauthorized person” has obtained the following information: name, address, country, email address, birthdate, Playstation Network username and password and PSN ID. And although Sony stated that there is no evidence of credit card information being obtained, I have a hard time believing that the hacker(s) simply took everything and left the kitchen sink.

Now, this massive leak of information is disturbing to me on many levels, but here are the big ones: Why did it take Sony a week to tell me that my information may have been compromised? And what am I going to do now? After all, if someone has your email address and a password (especially if it’s one that you use for multiple things), they can do a lot of malicious things.

To Sony’s credit, they did do me a favor by reminding me that internet security is not something that can be taken lightly. Now, I’m not someone who feels like something is hack-proof…but that doesn’t mean I think consumers should just readily hand over sensitive information. Here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of ending up in a situation similar to mine.

  1. Use unique passwords for everything – In full disclosure, I used to use the same 2-3 passwords for most of my accounts, PSN included. However, after someone opened the Sony floodgates and spilled consumers’ personal data all over the proverbial flood plains, I had to go through the arduous process of trying to remember every account or service that I had signed up for so that I could change my passwords. This headache could have easily been avoided if I had simply used unique passwords for each account.
  2. Monitor your credit reports and account statements regularly – Ironically enough, I had just activated a new credit card less than 24 hours before receiving the aforementioned email from Sony. While I was activating the card, the customer service rep (forebodingly) asked if I would like to enroll in an Identity Theft Protection program so that I would be protected should someone obtain my personal information. I politely declined his offer and hung up the phone. Needless to say, I am now enrolled in said service so that I can monitor my credit reports and look for suspicious activity. While I’m not suggesting everyone go this route, I am advising people to pay close attention to bank statements, credit card bills, etc.
  3. Be aware of what you put on the Internet – It’s been said many times by many different people, but be careful about what information you give out. While many PSN users (myself included) would have said that giving my information to Sony wasn’t a big deal, in light of what has taken place, I am going to change my position. After all, if a company as large and as heavily invested in online services as Sony isn’t going to be able to safeguard my information, then who is? The next time you sign up something online, ask yourself, “How much information am I giving out and am I comfortable with it being known by others?” The simple fact is that if it’s on the Internet, it’s known by someone besides you.

So all in all, I am slightly grateful to Sony – not because I’ve had to change and remember a dozen new passwords, but because of what going through that process made me realize. I need to make more conscious and well-informed decisions about what information of mine is put on the Internet, and I also need to take more steps to protect myself.

So what are your thoughts? Do you have any good tips on how to protect yourself online?