Playstation Network Breach

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    Weak start to communications hinders crisis management

    Last week, Sony’s “Playstation Network” suffered one of the largest breaches of confidential user information in history. With over 75 million users affected, to say that Sony has a crisis management case on its hands would be an understatement.

    The electronics giant put itself in a bad place due to dishonest communication from the start, at first painting the issue as a mere outage before finally admitting that hackers had broken into the PSN service and stolen customer information, including (possibly) financial data. In another necessary but customer-angering move, Sony’s PC gaming service Qriocity was taken down just yesterday, likely due to having the same security flaw as the PSN.

    The entire issue leaves many questions unanswered, and Sony is not stepping up to fill this role as it should. As a result, it’s been left up to members of the media, such as PCWorld’s Matt Peckham, to fill the gap with quotes like this one:

    What sort of compensation will Sony provide Qriocity and PSN members (note that many pay $50 a year for PlayStation Plus premium membership)? Has Sony identified the parties involved? Does the presumably criminal activity constitute a serious enough felony (or series of felonies) to involve the FBI? What sort of security measures is Sony taking to ensure an attack like this–or worse–won’t happen again? How will it convey that to its over 75 million PSN members and convince them not to jump ship?

    All good questions, and ones that Sony has a responsibility to answer. Until it goes just that, those millions of customers are at risk of jumping ship. Tech fans are fickle, and an error left uncorrected for long will see their dollars invested in products from a rival company.

    Sony has begun in the right direction, linking its own official timeline and explanation via social media, but it will take much more comprehensive communication to come out ahead on this one.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]