Sony Computer Entertainment Europe was slapped with a £250,000 ($390,000) fine by the U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in connection with a data breach in 2011.
In April of that year, Sony disclosed that hackers had stolen personal data from millions of members of the PlayStation Network online gaming community. The stolen information included members' email addresses, birth dates and passwords. Though millions of users had credit card information registered to their account, there was no evidence that the encrypted payment details were accessed, the ICO investigation found.
However, the commissioner's office determined that the attack could have been prevented if Sony's software had been up-to-date and the password security had been improved.
"If you are responsible for so many payment card details and log-in details then keeping that personal data secure has to be your priority," said David Smith, deputy commissioner and director of Data Protection, in a statement. "In this case that just didn’t happen, and when the database was targeted – albeit in a determined criminal attack – the security measures in place were simply not good enough."
It is the job of the ICO to serve as the regulatory office for issues dealing with Data Protection Act 1998 and Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 in the U.K. The office also deals with violations of the 'Freedom of Information Act 2000' and the 'Environmental Information Regulations 2004' in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and, to a limited extent, in Scotland.
In response to the fine, a Sony spokesperson said in a statement that the company strongly disagrees with the ICO's finding and plans to appeal. The spokesperson also noted that the ICO stated in its monetary penalty notice that "there is no evidence that encrypted payment card details were accessed" and “personal data is unlikely to have been used for fraudulent purposes” following the attack on the PlayStation Network.
"Criminal attacks on electronic networks are a real and growing aspect of 21st century life and Sony continually works to strengthen our systems, building in multiple layers of [defense] and working to make our networks safe, secure and resilient," the spokesperson said. "The reliability of our network services and the security of our consumers’ information are of the utmost importance to us and we are appreciative that our network services are used by even more people around the world today than at the time of the criminal attack."
Following the breach, Sony took action to improve security, the ICO acknowledged.
“There’s no disguising that this is a business that should have known better," said Smith. "It is a company that trades on its technical expertise, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they had access to both the technical knowledge and the resources to keep this information safe."
“The penalty we’ve issued today is clearly substantial, but we make no apologies for that," he added. "The case is one of the most serious ever reported to us. It directly affected a huge number of consumers, and at the very least put them at risk of identity theft."