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PSN suffers Black Wednesday - but technology's terrorists won't stop at Sony

Opinion: The alarm bells are ringing for Tim Ingham...

Anyone else wake up this morning with an icky feeling in their stomach?

Stupid, really. No-one died, there was no physical damage. I'm still here, you're still here. I'm sure your mum's fine.

And yet such a wave of immediate vulnerability, combined with a crash of breathtaking, stomach-crippling naivety... it was almost bleak.

The non-gaming world still hasn't fully grasped it yet, but it's one hell of a scary day to be a tech-savvy citizen. Our very way of life has been attacked, and consciously acknowledged or not, we are reeling.

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The immediate and vicious communal ire, unsurprisingly and to a large degree deservedly, has been directed at Sony. These are, after all, the personal and financial details with which over 70 million consumers - roughly the population of the entire UK - confidently entrusted the platform holder.

It seemed a simple deal: we'll give you oodles of cash for brilliant content, you take our money with a grin. Oh, and don't be frivolous with our entire online identity. Cool?

Overnight, that unspoken contract (or, indeed, that contracted contract, depending on the inevitable litigious tussle) has been eroded with a single, crushing phrase: "An unauthorized person has obtained the following information." I still feel slightly winded after reading it.

Sony may tell us that it's received no reports of credit card fraud from PSN users, but that will be shallow comfort to an uneasy, woozy consumer base. Under its guard, the safety apparatus has been ripped off our personal wealth - in some cases, the very funds that will bedrock our future livelihood. A touch of inflated panic is entirely condonable.

But to lay the blame solely at Sony's feet is to do injustice to the guile, deviousness and frightening perspicacity with which the PlayStation Network has been invaded. And, moreover, to the rabid motivation that has inspired its new enemy.

It is a fact that there may have been vulnerabilities in Sony's security that were overlooked. They should be independently investigated - and Sony fully held to account for any proven wisp of negligence.

But in fairness, the platform holder has been doing battle with a far greater force than a mere deficiency-seeking drone, out to wheedle its weak spots; it has been dealing with the rapacious human will of a fanatical foe.

It has, to all intents and purposes, been turned on by a technological terrorist - one without the malevolence for bloodshed or tragedy, but a terrorist nonetheless. Our cosy reliance on Sony's steel walls has been splintered; our trust in the system spooked.

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Thankfully - and I'm typing with fingers crossed and rabbit foot firmly attached - the perpetrator who shattered PSN's previously impenetrable fortress is more likely to be a spliff-in-mum's-garage nerd than a hardened, profit-seeking criminal. A nerd like the unfortunate Gary McKinnon, who - perspective alert! - allegedly snuck behind the digital perimeters of NASA and the US Navy, Army and Air Force in 2001. From his mum's computer. Just to check on UFOs.

Like McKinnon, PSN's nemesis is likely hyper-intelligent and, no doubt, not exactly a darling of high society.

The fact that a full week has passed since the PSN attack without any reported credit card fraud is reason for us all to relax at least a little - and to suggest that the end-game for Sony's public enemy no.1 was to expose, rather than embezzle; to win, rather than wound.

But what kept them ticking? Whoever successfully 'intruded' (Sony's Carry On euphemism does bring some light relief to proceedings, don't you think?) PSN last week was a demonstrable zealot; fixated on leaving Sony red-faced, and bringing its establishment crashing down.

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