Hit and Hacked, Sony Fights Back

Article excerpt

Byline: Joanne Lipman

CEO Howard Stringer on battling cybercrime-and taking on Apple.

Sir Howard Stringer started his career as a journalist, and as he ushers me into his bookshelf-lined conference room, with its glossy table and framed photo of his family at Buckingham Palace the day he was knighted, it's impossible to miss his 10 Emmys for news coverage lined up on the wall.

But today the news business just infuriates him--at least as it concerns Sony Corp., where he serves as CEO. "We are the poster child" of computer hacking, he says more than once. "I feel a little sense of aggrievement--Enough already. If the CIA and the FBI can be hacked, Sony can be hacked--I'm sick of hearing it."

Companies from Citibank to Lockheed Martin have been targeted by hackers recently, but none more prolifically than Sony. The Tokyo-based company's PlayStation game network was offline for almost a month after one hacking incident; then another cyberattack compromised Sony's movie sites. Sony has been pummeled by critics for waiting almost a week before alerting PlayStation customers, and for not encrypting passwords on some entertainment sites.

The New York Times even recently raised the question of how long Stringer, who has said he would like to stay on until 2013, can hold on to his job. "Absurd," Stringer calls that speculation. In January of this year, "the board of directors asked me to stay on for three years," he says.

"What we've demonstrated recently is you can be hacked. Period. Every company has some vulnerabilities." He is particularly annoyed that Sony, to his mind, has been bashed more than other companies like Citi, which, after all, is a bank and not an entertainment company, and which took a month to start alerting its customers.

If he's sounding a bit defensive, it's not hard to understand why. Just a few months ago, in January, he seemed on his way toward finally turning around the mammoth electronics and entertainment giant. Then the company got slammed: The Japanese earthquake and tsunami. …