Erik McClure

An Outside Perspective on the PSN Fiasco

I asked a non-technical friend of mine, who has been unable to play online with his PS3 recently due to the PSN outage, what he thought about practically all of his personal information being compromised due to an intrusion and questionable security. His perspective is not what I was expecting.

I have no idea what proper security is because I have no idea how that happens. I kinda cross my fingers that paypal isn't absolute shit. It's just not a good thing to put high hopes in when every console manufacturer has been trying to prevent hacking and piracy since such things became even remotely a problem, and have never succeeded. Thus, why expect any better from their servers. It's also worth noting I live in a very old-fashioned part of the country, not like OLD SOUTH or anything, but enough so that nobody here has faith in security online, at all, and a lot of people still won't order anything online because they don't trust the sites to protect their information or not just outright steal it for themselves.

It makes it so when things like this happen, I don't go having a little hissy over it and scolding Sony, boo hoo. Anonymous hacked the same network and a week later this happened. Nobody should be surprised, not this much, anyway. There wasn't even much time to address the issue without it going down like this anyway, seeing as now they've taken down everything to rebuild the whole mess because it's becoming a problem, obviously, but Sony fanboys will whine their brains out if the server is down at all, and Microsoft fanboys will continue to gloat that Live is better and use it as a sort of facial shit-rub. There is a lot of stigma against taking the network down, for any reason, due to the competition and entitlement of their fanbase and others, but honestly I'd have preferred this be the result after the Anonymous attack, even if everyone would've just bitched then too.

So there, I'm not the happiest with this, but I'm not freaking out or anything, because it doesn't surprise me one bit, it's just inconvinient for Portal and… well, the guy I wanted to play that with isn't getting it anytime soon so co-op's going to be me being an idiot with someone who's done it 90 times by the time I get it working no matter what, so it kinda sucks anyway.

Naturally, he carries some misconceptions. Anonymous did not hack the network, it took it down with a DDoS attack. But, he didn't even panic then even though he assumed it had been hacked and his credentials potentially stolen. He never panicked during any of this because he has never had any reason to believe that anything he is using is secure, although he hopes that PayPal has good enough security to keep him reasonably protected.

I see people in Hacker News lashing out at the video game fanboys as being clueless and only caring about being able to play their games, but the truth of the matter is that, in the perspective of a consumer, online security just flat out sucks. Its rarely implemented properly and even when it is it often fails eventually at some point, which of course everyone hears about. Sony happens to really suck at security, but its just another hacking incident to most of the PSN users. They simply never assumed that the network was secure in the first place. Even if they wanted to switch to say, Xbox Live, they can't, because Sony has a monopoly on the games offered on the PS3. The fact that Sony still has a very large chunk of the market isn't necessarily because consumers are stupid (although some of them clearly are), but because it has a monopoly on game selection. You can teach someone about why good security is important, but it won't matter until they have an alternative platform on which to play their games.

So the real problem here is that, from an economic perspective, games should not be limited to a single console, because it creates a monopoly and prevents proper competition. If you want to blame something for this, blame the monopoly, not the customers. The real lesson here is not that Sony is terrible at security, but that we have allowed a dangerous monopoly to form. In a proper competitive environment, Sony would lose an absurd chunk of its customers after an incident like this. You can complain that the company is evil and the customers are stupid, but at the end of the day, its just economics.



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