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PlayStation Network

Well, yesterday, Sony finally came out and admitted that the PlayStation Network (PSN) had been hacked. Apparently, it took them one or two whole days to find out themselves, and then another whole week before they told their customers. Well, I guess I can understand that they wouldn't want to tell anybody that the names, birth dates, email addresses, phone numbers, usernames, passwords, and possibly also credit card info, billing address, and the answers to security questions to all of their 77 million accounts were hacked.

I wouldn't want to admit to that either.

But as a customer, it sure would have been nice to have been notified earlier that I needed to start changing my passwords and security question answers to any other online services that I am a subscriber to. Or that I should start double checking my bank accounts and credit reports for possible fraud.

But these sorts of things happen. A data theft this bad has never happened before, but anytime you put any personal information in an online service, you are taking a risk. So I can't really be too mad that this happened.

What I can be mad about, however, is that Sony pretty much begged for this to happen.

Sony has been provoking the hacker community for years now.

It started with a firmware update that removed the "OtherOS" feature of the PlayStation 3. This feature allowed users to install operating systems such as Linux onto their PS3 and use the machine as a media server, or even as a full-fledged PC. Sony claimed that hackers were using this feature to get around copy protection and to aid them in pirating software.

Um ... OK ... If you say so.

But this feature had numerous perfectly legal and legitimate uses. And it was a major selling point for the console when it first hit stores. Many people bought the console specifically for this functionality along with features like built-in Blue Ray, backwards compatibility, and the PSN being free.

We all know that people weren't buying the PS3 for the games!

Launch titles were crap. Exclusives were few and far between, and rarely worth the hype. Most cross-platform games were superior on the Xbox 360 or PC, and the Xbox 360 typically had better software and hardware support (there weren't any problems with Rock Band controller compatibility on the Xbox 360). The PS3 felt like it was full of half-assed products and lazy ports.

If not for the promise that PS3 owners would eventually be given high-caliber exclusives like Metal Gear Solid 4, Gran Turismo 5, and Heavy Rain, most (if not all) PS3 users would have bailed ship long ago.

So when you start cutting the features that made the system worthwhile to the hardcore audiences that bought it, you're making a very bad public relations mistake. And if that hardcore audience happens to contain a large number of hackers and pirates, then you're probably making an even bigger mistake.

And when a notorious hacker created a jailbreaking program to allow people to continue using their OtherOS installations on the PS3, Sony pressed charges against him.

While doing that, they supposedly also went ahead and offered a job to another hacker who was famous for jailbreaking iPhones.

Hypocritical much, Sony?

But that wasn't the end of it. Sony continued to attack hackers and pirates, and bragged about the efforts they were taking to try to stop piracy.

And if you've ever had to have your PS3 system sent in to Sony for repairs (as I have already ranted about), then you probably aren't a big fan of Sony's copy-protection methods to begin with. All these copy protection and anti-piracy measures that Sony took with the PS3 only served to hurt the average consumer. And for what? To stop a handful of people from making illegal copies of games?

Now, I'm not saying for sure that hackers commited this crime as retaliation against Sony's anti-piracy policies. This attack could be totally unrelated. The thieves may have been specifically looking to steal customer information for the purposes of identity theft, and may have had absolutely nothing to do with hacker or piracy groups.

But it is like Sony has been challenging hackers to try something like this.

And guess what?

Somebody did.

And Sony wasn't prepared for it.

And now the average consumer is paying the price again.

How could a company go so far out of its way to piss off hackers and then not secure their system against cyber attacks? The stuff that was stolen was at least encrypted, right?

Well, Sony has already seen its stocks fall to their lowest single month value ever, and they are already facing a class action lawsuit. They are going to be losing thousands (if not millions) of dollars of lost revenue from people not being able to make purchases on the PSN during the time that it's offline. And their PlayStation brand has probably suffered irreparable damage to its brand name, forcing many consumers to move their business to Microsoft's Xbox, Nintendo's Wii (and possibly the upcoming Wii2?), or the PC.

But Sony is going to be fine. They are still the biggest electronics manufacturer in Japan. They are practically Japan's equivalent of both General Electric and Microsoft combined! Oh, and on top of that, Sony also owns movie studios (Columbia/Tri-Star) and record labels (Columbia and BMG). The PlayStation brand is only a small fraction of their total revenue.

Psst! Sony is still the largest electronics manufacturer in Japan. Buy stock in Sony now, while it's CHEAP!

The only real losers here are still the consumers. The people who now have their personal information and credit card numbers potentially in the hands of criminals.

A note to software companies:

Quit with the excessive copy-protection and anti-piracy stuff. All it does is hurt the average consumer. Whether it is limiting the customer's access to the content they've purchased by not letting them legally copy a CD onto an iPod or their PC so they don't have to carry CDs around everywhere they go. Or having unwanted 3rd party copy-protection software installed on their computers that is going to run in the background once the computer starts and eats up the system's resources. Or copy protecting user data on a machine that is non-transferable in the event that the system is damaged or has to be replaced (again, see my earlier rant).

Copy protection and anti-piracy technology add extra cost to the DVDs, CDs, video games, and other software that we purchase, and in some cases makes the software itself harder to use.

And if you're going to sell a piece of hardware and advertise its flexibility and customizability as primary selling points, for the love of Bob don't take that away post-release! I don't care how many games get pirated because of it. If you were so worried about piracy, then don't make a moddable piece of hardware to begin with! But once it's on the market, it's too late to change your mind.

With regards to the hackers:

Corporations like Sony aren't the only villains here. Hackers and software pirates are criminals. They are not heroes. This is not a case of a noble David slaying the monstrous Goliath. It's more of a case of evil infighting. Like Goliath taking on the Spanish Inquisition.

If I belonged to the group Anonymous (or any other hacker organization), and I found out that someone within my organization had done this, I'd serve him up on a silver platter with an apple in his mouth and a cabob stick shoved up his ass for putting the consumers in danger. Their fight isn't with the consumer or the people who purchase Sony products and services. It is with Sony, itself.

I don't care how big of a douche Sony has been. You don't put the consumers in harm's way like this.

I surely hope that whoever is responsible for this crime did it only to bloody up Sony's nose. I hope that he or she (or they) has no real interest in the account information of any accounts that they may have gained access to and that any stolen data will be promptly and safely disposed of.

It's a lot to hope for, I know.

In the meantime, I also hope that the PlayStation Network will be back online soon, and that it will be better and more secure than ever. Although I probably won't be putting my credit card information back into it...

I hope that these events do not scare away 3rd party game developers from continuing to develop and distribute quality games for the console.

And lastly, I hope that whoever is responsible is found swiftly and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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