How wonderful it is that we live in a world where the worst mistakes of a giant multinational company can be forgiven for some cheap gifts. Take Sony. They failed to encrypt their user data, based their entire security system around the PS3 being 'unhackable' (it's not) and very possibly lost credit card data. But now, all is well and PSN / Qriocity will relaunch this week.
In order to sooth ruffled consumer feathers, the company has planned a Welcome Back package. It includes free PSN content and free PlayStation Plus membership for 30 days. So yeah...temporary free services in exchange for an unforgivable lapse of judgement.
So far, this desperate plea for love hasn't been too effective. A recent nationwide opinion poll of 2,132 users found that 89% of PlayStation 3 purchasers were worried about the exposure of their private data. And 21% of them planned to leave their current console for an XBox 360 as a result.
While Sony originally said that they did not believe card data had been exposed, the company now admits that 10 million card numbers may have been stolen. Here's where things get less clear. Early reports from hacker forums report that "only" 2.2 million credit card numbers are for sale. And Sony is emphatic about the fact that all card data was encrypted, making it unusable.
But multiple PSN clients have reported identity theft. And Congress has set May 6 as the due-date for laundry list of questions to be answered by Sony chairman Kazuo Hirai.
The letter demands an answer to several questions: How did the breach occur? Who was responsible? What information was obtained and just how many PSN users have their credit card information on file? While any response Sony gives will be heavily peppered with PR-speak, to keep anything a secret once the court cases start.
Don't be tempted to feel sorry for Sony in this. The hackers were able to did what they did due to a known flaw. This is 100% the fault of inadequate security procedures and corporate hubris. And, in the long run, it may spell doom for PlayStation. Last quarter was good for the brand but Sony's stock is dropping fast. And we're days- at the most- from Sony officially revealing that credit card data was stolen. That's going to be an expensive announcement.
Right now, Sony is set to roll into the holiday shopping season with a very tarnished brand. Users will be less likely to use their credit cards on PSN than ever before, meaning each console sold will be less profitable. And a high degree of user turnover seems inevitable. Something tells me Sony's game division has seen their last profitable quarter for quite a while.