In early 2011, hacker George “Geohot” Hotz released the security keys for the PS3, enabling pretty much anybody to run unapproved software on the console, including pirated games and software hacks.
As a result, Sony went after Hotz, and the long-winded legal battle was widely publicized.
Let’s just say that Sony didn’t exactly come out looking like the good guy, and everyone’s favourite internet-based non-organization, Anonymous, took it upon themselves to exact revenge on Sony.
It is thought that Anonymous successfully hacked the PlayStation Network, stealing massive amounts of private user data, and bringing the service down for almost a whole month.
Sony says it learned some valuable lessons from the entire ordeal. In a conversation with security focused SC Magazine, Sony’s chief security officer, Brett Wahlin, explained that the company hopes to leverage some sociological principles to detect, prevent, and eliminate threats to the Sony Entertainment Network.
“The types of attacks we see are by groups with social agendas. The methods they use aren’t the same as the state-sponsored guys,” he said. “At Sony, we are modifying our programs to deal less with state-sponsored [attacks] and more with socially-motivated hackers.” I think he might just be lookin’ at you, Anon, Lulzsec and co.
Preventing these “socially inspired” attacks means keeping a close eye on Sony staff members across the globe. With thousands of individuals spread across the world working in different divisions, and with varying degrees of access to Sony’s core systems, keeping tabs on what they’re getting up to is a priority for Sony in ensuring that their systems are safe.
Combining “social engineering psychology with data analytics,” Sony aims to monitor staff behaviour and keep an eye out for security gaps and suspicious activity on a system-wide level.
“We are looking to see if there are key elements within a person’s interaction with their environment. That could be interaction with badging systems, with telephones – when and who do they call – and with systems like browser habits and applications used,” he said. “All these things allow us to set up a pattern for users, so when something different happens we can respond.”
“If we detect unusual activity, it may be that someone’s been owned by a Trojan that we don’t know about, and we can stop data flying out the door,” he added.
Wahlin added that Sony continues to look at new strategies to prevent user fraud, and keep Sony’s networks secured.