Sony boss under fire after second breach revealed

Reuters, TOKYO and NEW YORK

Wed, May 04, 2011 - Page 1

Sony chief executive Howard Stringer faced harsh criticism of his leadership after the consumer electronics conglomerate revealed hackers may have stolen the data of another 25 million accounts in a second massive security breach.

Sony’s latest revelation came just a day after it announced measures to avert another cyberattack like that which hit its PlayStation Network two weeks ago.

The Japanese electronics company said its Sony Online Entertainment PC games network had been hacked on April 18, but did not find out about the breach until the early hours of Monday and shut down the service shortly afterwards.

The breach may also have led to the theft of 10,700 direct debit records from customers in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, and 12,700 non-US credit or debit card numbers, the company said.

Investors said Sony and 69-year-old Stringer had botched the data security crisis.

“The way Sony handled the whole thing goes to show that it lacks the ability to manage crises,” said Michael On, a fund manager at Beyond Asset Management in Taipei, who does not own Sony shares. “The current CEO should step down after the hacker problems and the company’s failure to push out products that are competitive.”

Welsh-born Stringer, a former TV producer who was knighted in 2000, has not commented on the security breach, leaving No. 2 Kazuo Hirai to lead a news conference and apology on Sunday.

Hirai headed the networks division and was seen as the likely successor to Stringer, who in March committed to stay in his role for the current year at least.

The attack that Sony disclosed on Monday took place a day before a massive break-in of its separate PlayStation video game network that led to the theft of data from 77 million user accounts. Sony revealed that attack last week.

The PlayStation network lets video game console owners download games and play against friends. The Sony Online Entertainment network, the victim of the latest break-in, hosts games such as EverQuest played over the Internet on PCs.

Sony said late on Monday that the names, addresses, e-mails, birth dates, telephone numbers and other information from 24.6 million PC games accounts may have been stolen from its servers as well as an “outdated database” from 2007. Sony spokeswoman Sue Tanaka, asked whether other data could be at risk, listed the precautions the company has taken such as firewalls, but added it could not be certain.

“They are hackers. We don’t know where they’re going to attack next,” Tanaka said.