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January 25, 2013

Sony fined £250,000 for breaching data regulations: Expert reaction

An investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office found that Sony could have prevented the April 2011 hack which resulted in personal data of 77 million customers being compromised.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

The inquiry uncovered that the attack could have been easily avoided if Sony had been responsibly updated their Software. CBR rounds up expert opinions on ICO’s decision to penalise the company.


Vanessa Barnett, technology and media partner at Charles Russell LLP

"Sony’s fine from the Information Commissioner shows that our regulator has some teeth – well, little ones! Essentially, Sony failed to take appropriate ‘technical and organisational measures’ to protect its customer data. Those ‘technical and organisational measures’ are looked at in the context of the business holding the data and what the ICO has made very clear is that Sony could have done more – it had both the money and the brains to do better, but didn’t quite deploy them. As the new EU rules on data protection rumble through the legislative process bear this in mind: that £250,000 today could over time go up to a percentage of turnover, if the laws go through as intended. All boards of companies that hold personal data need this on their radar now and need to be sure that personal data is properly protected now – before the ICO get really big teeth!"

Chris McIntosh, CEO of ViaSat

"The news that the ICO has fined Sony £250,000 for the hack in April 2011 is wholly positive, but this also demonstrates the worrying lack of regard for data protection that exists from a large organisation that should really know better. Any organisation trusted with safeguarding the personal details of millions of customers, including payment card details, should ensure it has the most rigorous data security policies in place possible to protect against threats like these.

"The fact that the data breach could have been avoided by something as simple as a software update shows a worrying lack of regard and a poor perception of the existing threats. The ICO has said one positive outcome of the data breach is it has made consumers more cautious, yet customers should not have to worry about their personal details and the onus should be largely on the data custodian’s shoulders. Saying that, the consumer has a responsibility to make sure they are doing their part by using different passwords and changing them regularly. As more and more large organisations are trusted with detailed customer information in future, this lax approach will need to be addressed to avoid similar breaches becoming everyday occurrences."

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Terry Greer-King, UK managing director, Check Point

"Commenting on the ICO’s £250,000 fine for Sony, Check Point’s UK Managing Director, Terry Greer-King said: "It underlines the fact that companies have to take the protection of customer data seriously, and take steps to prevent that data being accessed.

"In 2012, we surveyed over 550 C-level and IT staff at UK firms and found they reported an average of 68 new security attack attempts per week, with financial fraud and theft of customer data as the primary targets. It shows how big this problem has become, and the importance of implementing pre-emptive protection to safeguard critical data assets."

David Smith, ICO Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection

"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. 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.

"There’s no disguising that this is a business that should have known better. 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.

"A PR Week poll shortly after the breach found the case had left 77 per cent of consumers more cautious about giving their personal details to other websites. Companies certainly need to get their act together but we all need to be careful about who we disclose our personal information to."

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