Sony Names Ex-DHS Director to Oversee Security Strategy

Embattled electronics giant Sony is bringing on some heavy guns as it hired former Homeland Security director to head up its security.

Philip Reitinger, former director of the United States National Cyber-Security Center, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, will be joining Sony as a chief information security officer, Sony said Sept. 6.

The appointment is effective immediately and Reitinger will become a senior vice-president, reporting directly to general counsel Nicole Seligman, according to Sony.

Shortly after unknown attackers breached the PlayStation Network, Sony Online Entertainment and Qriocity music and video service, Sony said it would name a chief information security officer to oversee the company's security strategy. Reitinger will fill this newly created position and will oversee privacy and Internet security across the electronics and entertainment conglomerate's range of businesses.

"He will oversee information security, privacy and Internet safety across the company, coordinating closely with key headquarters groups and working in partnership with the information security community to bring the best ideas and approaches to Sony," said Sony in a statement.

Attackers breached Sony's servers to steal user account information from PSN, SOE and Qriocity in mid-April and early May. Sony claimed the breach had occurred while the company was distracted by the distributed-denial-of-service attacks from Anonymous protesting the company's lawsuit against PlayStation 3 hacker George "GeoHot" Hotz.

Gene Spafford, a Purdue University professor of computer science who is head of the U.S. Public Policy Council of the Association for Computing Machinery and the executive director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security testified before Congress that Sony was running an obsolete version of the Apache Web server software and did not have any firewalls in place. The services remained offline for nearly a month as Sony worked to rebuild the infrastructure, but issues remained on its other properties, as hacker groups such as LulzSec amply demonstrated in May.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer told the Wall Street Journal shortly after the breaches became public that "nobody's system is 100 percent secure," and that these types of attacks were inevitable in the current security landscape. "It's not a brave new world; it's a bad new world," Stringer told the newspaper at the time.

The outage and the subsequent rebuilding may have already cost Sony approximately $175 million.

Security experts and industry watchers criticized Sony for not having had a CISO prior to the breaches. "How can a worldwide company with billions in revenue and an even larger market cap not have a CISO? It boggles the mind," Phil Blank, an analyst in the security, risk and fraud practice area at Javelin Strategy & Research, wrote on the market research firm's blog in May.

The company has not directly responded to the criticism, just saying it would review and update its online security systems. It has also promised new security measures, including new firewalls, "automated software monitoring and configuration management" to defend against new attacks, Sony has also said it will provide "enhanced levels" of data protection and encryption and "enhanced ability" to detect software intrusions within the network as well as unauthorized access and unusual activity patterns. .

Not having a CISO meant that "Sony's entire network and application architecture must be considered suspect," as there was no infrastructure in place to ensure that governance, risk and compliance was taking place, according to Blank. It was clear that the lack of security awareness went "far beyond" just the compromised cloud services, but was "built-in to every Sony Web presence," Blank wrote.

The company claimed the security issues were in the past at the IFA consumer electronics conference in Berlin, Germany earlier this month. "This year, we at Sony have been flooded, we've been flattened, we've been hacked, we've been singed, but the summer of discontent is behind us," Stringer said at a press conference, referring to the devastating earthquake in Japan and the data breaches.

PSN is "more secure and better than ever," Stinger said, claiming that the company has added more than 3 million new customers since the networks were restored in mid-May.

The breaches were a "catalyst" for appointing Reitinger, a Sony spokesperson told Reuters, adding, "We are looking to bolster our network security even further." Reitinger is expected to start a formal review of Sony's computer networks, the company said.

Reitinger was a chief trustworthy infrastructure strategist at Microsoft and deputy undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security before being named as director of NSCS. He left DHS in May after the White House released its cyber-security proposal for Congress. He also worked on cyber-security for the Justice and Defense Departments.