Sony Attackers Stole Info on 2,500 Consumers from 'Old Server'

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2011-05-09

The bad news doesn't stop at Sony, as the company admitted another server was compromised. Considering how many people have already had their information stolen from Sony, 2,500 people sounds paltry in comparison. It's still personal data that shouldn't have been stolen in the first place.

This time, it was a server containing information provided by consumers who'd entered a product sweepstakes contest back in 2001. Names and partial addresses of 2,500 individuals were posted online. This list did not include credit card information, Social Security numbers or passwords.

"The Web site was out of date and inactive when discovered as part of the continued attacks on Sony," the company said. It made a similar statement when admitting to the breach at Sony Online Entertainment, noting that some of the data was from 2007 and was old data on a forgotten server.

Companies keeping old data long past its "expiration date" are more common than people realize, Chester Wisniewski, a senior security adviser at Sophos Canada, told National Public Radio's John Moe. Servers are forgotten or overlooked during an acquisition or when upgrading to new equipment, leaving the information stored on the systems unprotected, Wisniewski said.

"In an organization as large as Sony the hackers targeting them may be able to continue to find low-hanging fruit," said Wisniewski. Attackers will find unpatched old equipment at any of the various subsidiaries as easy targets.

Companies get to decide how long to keep information, and as these breaches show, they aren't deleting the information when they are done with it.

The company admitted in late April and early May that attackers had waltzed off with information from 101 million accounts on the PlayStation Network, Qriocity and Sony Online Entertainment. Some credit card information was also stolen, but Sony executives insisted that it was protected and there was no sign anyone had tried to sell or use the data.

What gamers really care about is when the PlayStation Network is coming back. The company had indicated May 5 that it was in the "final stages" of testing to resume services, but backtracked on May 7, saying that more work was necessary.

"In this case, Sony is certainly doing the right thing," said Wisniewski, noting that it was better to be offline and put everything in a "secure state" instead of turning it back on and allowing attackers another shot at cracking the system.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer finally broke his silence after the data breach was disclosed on April 26 and apologized to Sony's gaming users on May 6.

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