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Playstation Data Breaches: Revenge of the Nerds?

Posted: 06/10/11 10:19 AM ET

I'm sure that Sony's leadership does not have a rich 1980s VHS collection.

However, the corporation's executives could have learned from one of the decade's classics before launching a legal battle against 21-year-old George Hotz.

Revenge of the Nerds is a 1984 comedy featuring group of gifted college misfits who start an uprising after being bullied by jocks.

Responding with attacks of their own, the film's heroes seek revenge. One of the gang's most memorable schemes involves the application of 'liquid heat' onto the football team's jockstraps.

Ouch.

This January, Sony sued George Hotz (a wunderkind who was first to unlock the iPhone) after he discovered and shared a hack allowing users to launch 'homebrew' applications on their PlayStation 3.

The suit was settled out of court in April, but suing the revered hacker put Sony out of favour with many. Most notably, Hotz's fellow hackers.

And just like Revenge of the Nerds, retaliation might have followed.

As the Wall Street Journal noted, Sony's lawsuit sprung "vigilante technologists" who promised to avenge their peer. Hacktivist group Anonymous, known for attacking corporations like Visa and Mastercard, threatened Sony in early April.

"Congratulations, Sony. You have now received the undivided attention of Anonymous."

"We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us."

At that point, it certainly seemed like hacker groups were priming their virtual 'liquid heat' supply, ready to cause Sony some major discomfort. And sure enough, the PlayStation Network was hacked weeks later.

The first breach affected more than 77 million PlayStation users worldwide. Hackers had gained access to user names, birthdays, home addresses, email addresses, network passwords, network logins, purchase histories, and billing addresses.

A second breach impacted 24.6 million users. There, 12,700 credit and debit card numbers (with expiration but not security codes) and 10,700 debit records may have been acquired by hackers.

If that wasn't bad enough, another breach then followed in Canada where 2,000 consumers were hit and in Greece where 8,500 consumers were affected.

Most recently, a group called LulzSec took information of 1 million SonyPicutres.com customers and posted a portion of them online...just because they could.

These attacks are wrong, criminal, and must not be seen in the same light as the playful antics of some bullied geeks. However, it is undeniable that hacker attacks are a reality, and corporations must do all they can to avoid such targeting.

The moral of Revenge of the Nerds arrives when the leader of the nerds, called Lewis, rises up at a pep rally and encourages all that have "ever felt stepped on, left out, picked on, put down" to join him in rebellion. His call is answered by many, and the movie ends with the nerds (not the jocks) celebrating to 'We are the Champions.'

At that point, the jocks discover that when given reason, those who identify as underdogs will join together and fight back.

Unfortunately, it seems Sony may have learned that same lesson.