PSN Hack: Can We Trust Game Downloads?

PSN Hack: Can We Trust Game Downloads?

On April 19, the PlayStation Network was rudely visited by “an external intrusion.” On April 26, Sony finally got around to telling its user base, “Oh, yeah, about that: Looks like your personal information has been compromised. Sorry.”

The hackers claim they have millions of credit card numbers; Sony won’t confirm one way or another, but says the credit card numbers are all encrypted. Stolen credit card numbers or no, one thing is for sure: A fortnight is a long, long time for such a huge network to remain offline, and, outside of a few obligatory jokes about how the outage was the catalyst America needed to get off its duff and root out terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, PlayStation owners are severely cheesed off.

Sony says it has some compensation plans in the works, but the company will probably be smarting for a while. Its reluctance to admit it had been hacked has left a lot of gamers sore. But what does this incident mean for the downloadable games market in general? With the downloadable games market booming, we don’t stop and give much thought to the consequences of credit card and identity theft. Will the hacking of the PlayStation Network give us all pause and make us think twice before buying digital games and downloadable content from PSN, Steam, the App Store, the Wii Shop Channel, and Xbox Live Arcade?

The human species has a knack for forgetfulness; it’s what helps us survive and carry on in a world where pain and tragedy get served up with breakfast. When the PlayStation Network comes back online, forgiveness will follow–in time. Those of us who stopped to spare a troubled thought for the ease with which our personal information can be whisked away will return to downloading games. The market is just too busy to avoid entirely (granted, not everyone will demonstrate a short memory of the outage, least of all anyone who participates in the class action lawsuits launched against Sony).

However, the situation might be different for people who believe they had their credit cards compromised during the downtime. Even if the victims don’t eat the costs that come with credit card theft, watching a stranger go to town with your number is frightening and stressful. Replacing a card also takes time and effort.

Victims of the theft will probably return to downloading games, but all of us will be a little wiser from this event. Gamers will–and should–demand more communication between themselves and game companies on matters of credit card security. It’s also likely we’ll see an increase in the purchase of system point cards and/or prepaid credit cards.

Over these past few days, many of us have received a whirlwind education about the importance of securing our personal identities online. It’s a shame the lesson had to come via hackers’ unscrupulous activities and Sony’s hesitation to admit to the problem.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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