COMMENTARY | Earlier this week, Sony announced publicly that portions of its PlayStation Network and Qriocity service account databases were illegally accessed by hackers and would be down for servicing. While Sony acknowledged in the company's online blog and in account holder notifications that encrypted credit card information was not believed to have been placed at risk, the personal information of its 75 million plus users was compromised. What does this mean for affected PlayStation and Qriocity account holders — and what lessons should other online account holders learn from the Sony security breach?
Online passwords should be unique and changed often
While this warning is announced during most account creations — most internet users hold scores of online accounts. In a virtual, "paperless" world, consumers perform most tasks online or from a smartphone keypad — from accessing satellite radio to ordering pizza and paying bills. Rather than keeping a journal to track the many usernames and passwords, many online users become careless and use similar or identical usernames, passwords or combinations of the two for multiple online accounts. Unencrypted files, containing account holder passwords, were lost in the recent PlayStation Network hack, potentially leaving additional personal information of registered users open to virtual disaster in adept hands.
Even large companies are at risk for network intrusions
In recent months, online marketing company Epsilon suffered an attack affecting millions of consumers and numerous Epsilon contracted businesses. Consumers and online account holders cannot assume that large businesses are foolproof in protecting consumer's personal information from malicious attack.
Preventing further personal damage requires consumer common sense
Because the intentions of the Sony hackers are unknown, the data gathered has potential to be used for countless illegal purposes. With names and total contact information lost — consumers are open to a variety of scams and fraudulent activities and should use common sense with contacts. Before responding to unsolicited telephone, email or snail mail contacts — consumers should suspect the worst and react with caution.
Rather than wondering if a large scale database of personal information will be lost — consumers must assume that the potential exists. What should be learned from the Sony hack? Consumers need to personally take the time to better protect online interactions at the consumer level — and remain vigilantly on the lookout for scams, spam and unsolicited contact.