Sony and Microsoft: A tale of two hacks

Microsoft headquarters in Paris and Sony headquarters in Tokyo.

Tess Vigeland: Right about now, Sony probably wishes it could morph into one of its games, namely "Dragon's Lair: Time Warp." Go back, oh, six months or so to a time before the company and its PlayStation network was hacked. It happened again today. And if you've lost track of security breaches at the company, we can't blame you. The attacks now seem to number in the dozens.

Marketplace's Steve Henn brings us this story about Sony's descent into the online abyss.


Steve Henn: When did Sony become such a tool?

Chris Lytle a security expert at Veracode and says these days it's hard to keep all the attacks on the company straight.

Chris Lytle: It's even gotten to the point where at least two of the breaches in the first 10 happened on the same day.

So why this is happening now? A lot of techies -- like Lytle -- trace it to Sony's reaction to a hack of the PlayStation 3 by a kid known as Geo Hot or George Hotz. Back in January, Hotz cracked open the PS3 -- making it possible for folks to write and play home-brewed video games, or copy games.

And Sony sued and was kinda nasty about it. This angered a lot of technically savvy people. And this spring some of these folks began to strike back.

Lytle: They were talking with Sony. They kept saying, hey Sony we know what's going on -- we are reverse engineering your stuff. We are outsmarting your engineers. Do you want to hire us so we can work on this stuff with you? And Sony ignored them until kind of the point of no return.

Now Microsoft faced the some of these same issues when it release the Kinect. That motion sensitive toy was catnip for thousands of geeks who wasted no time taking it apart. At first, Micrsoft said no.

But Mike Gartenberg, a tech analyst at Gartner, says some of the hacks were so cool -- Microsoft changed its mind.

Mike Gartenberg: Basically they said hack away. And people have done all sorts of interesting remarkable things. And that's a great way of getting enthusiasts on board with your product.

Sony may have had more to lose, but you've got to wonder if executives there would now love a do over.

In Silicon Valley, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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