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Sony says hackers targeted it because it tried to protect content

Pedestrians are reflected on a Sony signage in Tokyo June 28, 2011. Sony Corp believes it was targeted by hackers because it tried to protect its intellectual property, CEO Howard Stringer told a shareholders' meeting at which he sidestepped a call for him to step down over the incident.

Toru Hanai/REUTERS

Sony Corp. believes it was targeted by hackers because it tried to protect its intellectual property, CEO Howard Stringer told a shareholders' meeting at which he sidestepped a call for him to step down over the incident.

No one has claimed responsibility for the massive April hacking attack in which details on 77 million PlayStation Network and Qriocity accounts were leaked, but many have speculated that the attack was sparked by Sony's efforts to clamp down on unauthorized use of its PlayStation games console.

Sony said at the time credit card information may have been stolen, sparking lawsuits and casting a shadow over its plans to combine content and hardware products via online services. The company also disclosed more hacking attacks against it in May and June.

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"We believe that we first became the subject of attack because we tried to protect our IP (intellectual property), our content, in this case videogames," Stringer told shareholders at Tuesday's meeting in response to a question about the background to the incident.

Other high-profile firms, including defence contractor Lockheed Martin and Google Inc. , have also been victims of recent cyber attacks.

Sony sued hacker George Hotz for copyright infringement and circumventing PlayStation 3's protection schemes after he posted information on the Internet that would enable gamers to run self-created applications on their consoles.

The company, which says the information would make pirating games easier, announced on April 11 it had settled the charges against Hotz. About a week later, Sony's systems were hacked.

Hotz, who first gained notoriety by unlocking Apple's iPhone, has now landed a job at Facebook, media reports said on Monday.

'NOT JUST SONY'

Stringer did not respond directly when another shareholder asked him to step down to allow the company to make a fresh start after what is believed to be the world's biggest ever Internet security breach.

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Sony's share price has fallen about 16 per cent since April 26, the day before the company revealed the first attack, and were almost flat on Tuesday.

The 69-year-old Welsh-born former TV producer, said only that his foremost responsibility was to oversee the company's development and to nurture the next generation of management.

Stringer also referred to the growing list of other companies and organizations that have been hacked.

"I think you see that cyber terrorism is now a global force, affecting many more companies than just Sony," he added.

"If hackers can hack Citibank, the FBI and the CIA, and yesterday the video game company Electronics Arts , then it's a negative situation that governments may have to resolve," Stringer said.

In April, Sony appointed Kazuo Hirai, 50, as second-in-command, and Stringer has said he is in pole position to take over the top job, though the timing is unclear.

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Sony says usage of its PlayStation video games network has returned to about 90 per cent of the level before the security breach, but some users remain angry.

A court case filed in the United States this month accuses Sony of laying off employees in a unit responsible for network security two weeks before the hacking incident.

Sony also spent lavishly on security to protect its own corporate information while failing to do the same for its customers' data, the proposed class action lawsuit alleges.

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