Sony PlayStation Network Breach: 10 Things to Know About Online Security

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-04-27

Sony PlayStation Network Breach: 10 Things to Know About Online Security

After a continuing outage of its PlayStation Network and its Qriocity site, which allow consumers to play games and access entertainment content, Sony has revealed that personal information has been compromised by an "illegal intrusion" into its systems.

The company has requested that the more than 77 million people using PlayStation Network examine their credit reports going forward to ensure they haven't been a victim of the outside threat.

It's a difficult time for Sony, to say the least. And the chances of the company overcoming the damage to its PlayStation business and reputation anytime soon are slim. But for consumers, simply blaming Sony right now probably isn't the best idea. Analyzing credit card statements and ensuring personal information hasn't been compromised should be the first priority.

Beyond that, it might be a good time for everyone to have a bit of a refresher on online security. As the cloud becomes an increasingly important aspect of the average person's daily life, they must keep in mind several security-related factors that are integral to limiting the impact such breaches might have on their lives.

Simply put, Sony's PlayStation Network breach says quite a bit about online security. Read on to find out what that is:

1. No company can be trusted

Sony is a well-respected brand name in the technology industry. Yet its reputation and experience in the IT industry didn't prevent hackers from penetrating its network and stealing customer information. If that doesn't tell the average consumer something about trust, nothing will. No matter what the size of the company or how well-respected it is, it's best not to absolutely believe that personal information is safe with it. Anything can happen. Sony's breach is proof of that.

2. Share information only when necessary

It's extremely important for people around the globe to  share information online only when it's necessary. In far too many cases, cloud-based services ask for personal information, credit card numbers and even Social Security numbers. When it comes to the Web, sharing only what's necessary to sign up for a service is always the best practice.

3. Some issues are beyond the user's control

When IT managers evaluate the security of their organizations, they always consider human error. They realize that sometimes people click on the wrong links, download malicious software or engage in unsafe browsing habits. However, at times, security issues break out through no fault of the users. Sony's PlayStation Network breach is a prime example of that. In those cases, there isn't much a user can do.

4. Fight comfort

One of the worst mistakes a person can make when it comes to online security is to fall into a sense of comfort with sharing information. It's a major mistake for a person to believe that since nothing bad has happened so far, they can continue to share information across the Web with no chance of recourse. It only takes one breach or one mistake to wreak havoc. And in this case, Sony's PlayStation Network issue is that one breach.

Taking Personal Responsibility for Data Security

5. Is an offline world better?

By sharing information on the Web, more opportunities are available to Internet users, but is that really best? The offline world, while still rife with security issues of its own, is arguably a more manageable environment when it comes to safeguarding personal information. When given the chance to choose an offline option or to share information online, opting for the disconnected method might be best.

6. Keeping tabs is important

A key component in online security involves being proactive. Gone are the days when users can simply share information online and go about their day. Now, folks must constantly monitor credit card statements and credit reports to ensure information isn't being stolen or used for illegal activities. The sooner an issue is discovered, the sooner it can be resolved.

7. The future is a scary place

Even though major breaches like the PlayStation Network issue happen more regularly than some want to admit, every sign points to the cloud becoming an even more important aspect of the average person's daily life going forward. Realizing that, the future is looking scarier than ever. With bank information, credit card data and Social Security numbers flying freely across the Internet each day, the chances of PlayStation Network-like issues cropping up again are growing greater by the hour.

8. Security tools are useful

Just about everyone knows about antivirus and anti-spyware tools, but it's important that those same folks use Web-security software, as well. Those options ensure encrypted communication, prevent phishing attacks and perform several other security functions to limit the chances of folks getting themselves into trouble on the Web. Online-security tools won't entirely safeguard unsuspecting victims, but they go a long way in helping one's chances of staying safe.

9. The enemy is everywhere

There is a common misconception in the marketplace that cyber-criminals are only lurking on bank Websites and other places where they might have the easiest chance of stealing financial information. But as the PlayStation Network breach has shown, they're everywhere. And they won't stop at anything to steal sensitive information from victims. The last thing any Web user should do is believe that any single site or service is safe from criminals.

10. The fewer, the better

Though just about every site and service wants users to offer up personal information, it's best to limit the exposure of that content to as little as possible. For the most part, signing up for a single service in each category, such as social networks, online gaming and cloud-based storage, is best. Offering up credit card information to every site a person comes across only maximizes the chances of a security breach. On the Web, the fewer the points of exposure, the better.

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