how safe is your digital data?

The recent hack of the Sony network has exposed user information on approximately 77 million accounts.  The attack, according to an article in the The Telegraph, has potentially exposed passwords and credit card numbers.  If this is true, this is “not good”, since it would imply that the passwords and the credit card numbers were not encrypted when they were stored in Sony’s network.

I registered for the Sony network, so apparently my credentials were among the ones stolen during this attack. At the end of this posting is the email message that I received from Sony about the incident. (I have removed some information that is not important for this posting.) The posting recommends changing the account password once the Sony network has been reactivated.

The Sony network required an email address and a password for a user to log into their network. An email address along with a password is used for authentication to other networks, such as LinkedIN or Facebook. Thus, it is possible that some of the accounts compromised in the Sony network attack can be used to hijack non Sony accounts. The below email message from Sony would be better if it recommended that users change all accounts using the same email address and/or the same password used in the Sony network.

What can users do? When registering for networks such as Sony’s, Amazon’s or others, be sure the email adress and password used for authenticiation on one site is not used for authentication on other sites. This means that a user needs to  ensure that the userid/password used to log into Facebook is not the same as the userid/password used to log into the Sony network. This will limit the potential risk if one network is compromised For example, my amazon ID is not at risk from this attack since I user different account information for the Amazon and Sony networks.

Here is the email I recieved.

" Valued PlayStation(R)Network/Qriocity Customer:
 We have discovered that between April 17 and April 19, 2011, certain PlayStation Network 
and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal
and unauthorized intrusion into our network. In response to this intrusion, we have:
 1) Temporarily turned off PlayStation Network and Qriocity services;
 2) Engaged an outside, recognized security firm to conduct a full and complete investigation
into what happened; and
 3) Quickly taken steps to enhance security and strengthen our network infrastructure by rebuilding our system to provide you with greater protection of your personal information.
 We greatly appreciate your patience, understanding and goodwill as we do whatever it takes 
to resolve these issues as quickly and efficiently as practicable.
 Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an 
unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address 
(city, state, zip), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password
and login, and handle/PSN online ID. It is also possible that your profile data, including 
purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation 
Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained. If you have authorized a 

sub-account for your dependent, the same data with respect to your dependent may have been 
obtained. While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we 
cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through 
PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that 
your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been 
obtained.
... When the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services are fully restored, we strongly 
recommend that you log on and change your password. Additionally, if you use your 
PlayStation Network or Qriocity user name or password for other unrelated services or 
accounts, we strongly recommend that you change them as well.
 To protect against possible identity theft or other financial loss, we encourage you to 
remain vigilant, to review your account statements and to monitor your credit reports. We 
are providing the following information for those who wish to consider it:   
- U.S. residents are entitled under U.S. law to one free credit report annually from each of
 the three major credit bureaus. To order your free credit report, visit 
www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll-free (877) 322-8228.
 - We have also provided names and contact information for the three major U.S. credit 
bureaus below.  At no charge, U.S. residents can have these credit bureaus place a "fraud 
alert" on your file that alerts creditors to take additional steps to verify your identity 
prior to granting credit in your name. This service can make it more difficult for someone 
to get credit in your name. Note, however, that because it tells creditors to follow 
certain procedures to protect you, it also may delay your ability to obtain credit while 
the agency verifies your identity.  As soon as one credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, 
the others are notified to place fraud alerts on your file. Should you wish to place a 
fraud alert, or should you have any questions regarding your credit report, please contact 
any one of the agencies listed below:
  • Experian: 888-397-3742; www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
  • Equifax: 800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
  • TransUnion: 800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. 
    Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
 - You may wish to visit the website of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission at
 www.consumer.gov/idtheft or reach the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 or 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, 
NW, Washington, DC 20580 for further information about how to protect yourself from 
identity theft. Your state Attorney General may also have advice on preventing identity 
theft, and you should report instances of known or suspected identity theft to law 
enforcement, your State Attorney General, and the FTC. For North Carolina residents, the 
Attorney General can be contacted at 9001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-9001; 
telephone (877) 566-7226; or www.ncdoj.gov. For Maryland residents, the Attorney General 
can be contacted at 200 St. Paul Place, 16th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202;
telephone: (888) 743-0023; or www.oag.state.md.us.
...
 Sincerely,
 Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Network Entertainment"

From this message, it appears that the attacker were able to get hold of significant personal information. 

So, what can we do to better protect ourselves? Kkeep in mind that some of the networks that we rely on will be compromised by attackers. Thus, it is the user’s responsibility to ensure that ids are different on each site.