The great PSN debacle, Part the First
Last updated on May 06, 2011 at 09:47 PM

I've so far refrained from commenting about the events surrounding the hacking of Sony's PlayStation Network. The wait wasn't so much due to a lack of thoughts on the matter, but perhaps too many.

Some commenters have made the argument that such a security breach was unavoidable, not because of the inadequacies inherent in Sony's security measures, but because online networks of this size and complexity will always be unsecurable.

The notion that any sufficiently complex network is by definition vulnerable is a fascinating question that, I have a feeling, will rear its head many times in the years to come. It also happens to be, quite frankly, a scary notion.

The debate that might be better suited to this time and place, though, is whether the measures that need be taken to secure something as large as PSN would themselves limit its potential to fulfill its intended purpose.

In other words, would the security measures create a draconian, dare I say Byzantine, online state where every move is catalogued, every press of the "X" button carefully recorded? Could the necessary security overtake the freedom that such networks tout as a defining feature?

I've also heard many an online pundit dismiss the loss of PSN for several weeks under the pretense that, "Hey, it was free anyway."

Of all the points made so far, I find this to be the most limited. When Sony began its campaign to get their PS3s into as many homes as possible there was one major problem: the huge cost.

Their reasoning at the time was that gamers were buying not just a gaming console, but a video-streaming console, a free online game service, the ability to play Blu-Ray movies, the capability for the highest-of-the-high-resolution gaming goodness. I believe the term "Cadillac of Gaming" was bandied about.

The thing about Cadillacs (or any other expensive prestige car) is that it's expected they be just as secure, if not more so, than that Integra gramma's driving. I'm not sure I've ever seen a consumer somehow make the logistical leap of grade triple-A expensive equating to brittle insecurity. Once again, as Mr. Spock would say, fascinating.

And, here I find myself at nearly 2,000 words without having delved into the two most obvious issues this situation has raised (should Sony have informed PSN customers more quickly and what kind of action gamers should be taking to protect themselves) nor the two most interesting (the dynamic of hacker communities such as Anonymous and whether or not action by, or attention from, Congress can have any sort of impact).

I'll address the latter in Part the Second of this blog, to come early next week. If your interest lies in the former, check out the May 11 edition of The Mouth (which could technically be called Part the Third) where we'll attempt to parse the situation so far and also provide a step-by-step guide to how a concerned PSN user can put a fraud alert on his or her credit rating.

Until then, may your identity remain your own and your gaming habits return to what passes for normal.

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