Big businesses need to learn from the latest hack on Sony or risk the same fate, according to experts from the security community.
Reports of the Sony hack broke on Tuesday when a group operating under the #GOP hashtag attempted to blackmail the firm.
"We've obtained all your internal data, including your secrets and top secrets. If you don't obey us, we'll release data shown below to the world," the group said in a message posted on the site.
Sony has yet confirm whether the claim is true, and had not responded to V3's request for comment at the time of publishing.
Lessons to learn
However, security experts have said that, even if #GOP's claims are false, the attempt at cyber blackmail should act a lesson for other companies.
Mark James, security specialist at ESET, told V3 that the attack is a stark reminder that all companies with a known brand will inevitably be targeted by cyber criminals and face similar threats.
"High-profile companies like Sony will be subject to attacks on a daily basis from all levels of hackers, including the opportunist and the persistent organised groups," he said.
"The methods used to infiltrate will range from random attempts to infect desktop machines, through drive-by downloads to targeted phishing attacks designed to get malware installed from inside and then make contact on the outside."
Liz Fitzsimons, data privacy expert at law firm Eversheds, shared James's belief. "The reports of a further attack on Sony starkly illustrate how cyber criminals are seeking to damage corporate reputations and businesses, with financial consequences for all of us," she said.
The nature of the attack on Sony remains unknown, although James said that firms should still consider a number of pre-emptive measures to avoid falling victim to similar blackmail attempts.
"The problem could well be user education. Keeping your staff up to date and well versed in modern attack methods, and ensuring a good company policy is in place to help staff be more aware, is very important these days," he said.
"Monitoring network traffic, ensuring operating systems and applications are updated, and having good antivirus will all need to be implemented to protect valuable data.
"Whilst there's no way to protect 100 percent, pairing the above with good user education will go a long way to achieving that target."
F-Secure security analyst Sean Sullivan added that firms should also consider centralising security efforts rather than relying on individual departments' IT teams.
"Sony is huge. The same parts of Sony aren't repeatedly falling victim [and] this could well have been due to weak security at Sony Pictures Entertainment [not Sony as a whole]," Sullivan told V3.
"To combat this, all of Sony's subsidiaries need to understand that they are a target because of their name."
CIOs heads will roll
Other security experts were less forgiving. Phil Lieberman, CEO of Lieberman Software Corporation, highlighted Sony's past inability to protect itself from the LulzSec hacktivist group as proof that the latest breach is the result of a "sloppy" error made by the firm's IT department.
"This was a perfect example of sloppy IT security and a CISO [chief information security officer] who did not implement proper privileged identity management or a disaster recovery backup plan for continuity of business," he said.
"The consequences were a loss of control over his environment caused by a focus on convenience of IT rather than the security of the enterprise."
The now disbanded Lulzsec group breached a number of internal systems and public facing websites during a wave of cyber attacks in 2011.
Lieberman added that the incidents at Sony mean that the firm is likely to advertise for new positions in its IT department in the near future.
"No doubt they will be looking for a new CIO and CISO as this team was unable to even do the basics of their job: security and business continuity. But they did manage to save money by not buying an effective set of security solutions," he said.
If true, the Sony executives involved will be among many professionals to lose their jobs after a data breach.
The chief executive of US retail giant Target, Gregg Steinhafel, stepped down in the wake of a high-profile data breach in May last year.
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