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Opinion

Sony, Security, & Why I Don't Trust The Digital Only Future

A tale of warning.

If you know me then you know I’ve always been a bit wary of the digital future, but I’ve bought digital games and hadn’t had a bad experience with the service. That is until around five weeks ago when PSN was taken down for a few days by a “hacker” group. Usually I’ll report on the matter and then as the story dies we move on, and wait for the next story. I thought that would be the case here but a few weeks later the extent of this attack was finally felt.

Before I delve into the problems let me give you a bit of context. I bought a PS4 at launch but had to send it back for a replacement a couple of weeks later because the disc tray wasn’t working. I deactivated that, got my new one and activated it as my primary console. It was my primary console throughout 2014. A similar situation to that of our reviews editor, Dominic Leighton, who followed the same steps.

Problems didn’t arise until I was in the middle of reviewing Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell, which was digital review code. This is important. I was also playing during a PSN maintenance window and for a while had no problems. Then a warning flashed up saying my console could not connect to the authorisation server, and the game would close in 15 minutes. This was followed by a five minute warning, and then true to the console’s word I was booted out. When I was on the main menu I noticed every digital game I owned and had on the console had a padlock next to it. That’s isn’t all as services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Prime were also locked out.

secure

This also happened to Dom and we both discussed whether our broken PS4s had been refurbished and somehow reactivated, making our current consoles secondary ones. Of course we have no proof and it could be coincidence that both of us lost primary access at the same time, some time after sending back deactivated broken consoles.

This was odd to me as I had never experienced this problem before on a PSN outage, so I logged into my account online to see what was going on. When I checked the devices I owned I noticed consoles I never owned on there, like a second PS4 and second PS Vita. I also saw my PS4 had been deactivated as the primary console. It appeared my account had been compromised so I did what anyone would do, changed my password and called PlayStation Support.

During this conversation I explained what had happened, and asked if these new consoles that had appeared could be removed from my account. The rep on the other side told me that it did look there had been some suspicious activity on my account, but it would have to be escalated upwards. I was told to note a reference number and expect contact in about a week. Fine, I understand there will be people ahead of me in the queue so I can wait a week. Last night I finally got a reply.

As part of our fair usage policy, we are unable to manually deactivate any consoles from your SEN account in order to prevent game-sharing.

So after explaining that my account was potentially compromised and security breached through no fault of my own I’m told I’m basically out of luck. I now can’t deactivate any consoles from my account for six months through the SEN website,due to Sony’s arbitrary time limit that comes into place if consoles are unregistered through its site.

This now means that any time PSN is down I will lose access to my digital library, because the authorisation server can’t be reached. Not just that but I also lose access to Netflix and Amazon Instant on the PS4, as well as every other app. Now a PS Plus subscription isn’t required to access these anyway so I don’t think Sony has any right to restrict my access to a third party service I pay a separate subscription to.

I can’t reset my console authentications for months, Sony won’t help, so I’m locked out of a lot of paid content every time PSN goes down. It wouldn’t be too much of a problem if a PSN outage happened once every six months, but it is down for maintenance monthly. And that doesn’t include when it stops working unexpectedly. PSN isn’t a reliable service at the best of times, so requiring authentication through it makes the situation disadvantageous to users. What if Sony suffers another major breach that takes down PSN for months? Are we supposed to accept that we’re locked out of digital content?

What also gets me is the game sharing excuse, or what used to be lending things to friends and family. The only difference here is the format through which something can be shared, where instead of disc it is a digital copy. It feels like even more of a slap in the face when we now live in a world with Share Play. Sure there is an hour limit per Share Play session, but I could start Far Cry 4 right now, activate Share Play and then let someone else play the game, just resetting the lobby each hour.

Secure-1

I also don’t like how we as a group just accepted primary and secondary consoles, because this wasn’t done for the consumer’s benefit. If I want to a buy a second PS4 for my home to put in another room, I want to know it can do everything the other one can regardless of contacting an authorisation server. When Microsoft suggested a similar practice with Xbox One game discs requiring a connection to the servers to verify authenticity there was a lot of outrage, which led to the company abandoning that particular practice.

The main feeling I’ve got from this situation is that I no longer feel like I own the items I have bought from Sony’s digital store. I own my Megadrive games, I own my PSOne games, I own my Wii games, but because some of my PS4 games are digital I don’t fully own them. No, instead I essentially have to have Sony’s permission to play them regardless of the fact I paid for games like Valiant Hearts and Octodad.

Sony’s policy to activation feels incredibly dated already, and it is really cumbersome too. It doesn’t help myself or Dom claim back our accounts and use our machines as we wish. I seriously advise that you check your PS4 is still your primary one, because something has caused mine and another staff member’s to switch from that, and get locked out every time PSN is down.

The digital future is convenient for two groups. Those who prefer digital over physical and for the companies that own the machines, because they can set high prices and also control what you do with what you purchase. Our power as consumers is steadily being eroded away, and if the future of games is digital only then I will bow out and not look back.

49 Comments
  1. psychobudgie
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    Absolutely agree with you on most of that. One of the common gripes though, related to the 15 minute check could easily be resolved by Sony by simply increasing it to 6-12 hours which would cover the majority of planned maintenance windows. Can’t help but think that the 15 minute thing was put in place at the request of publishers…EA and Ubisoft….Ubisoft.

    Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 09:07.
    • blackarts
      Banned
      Since: Feb 2015

      This comment is hidden.

      Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 14:02.
      • Starman
        Member
        Since: Jul 2011

        BLIIIIGHTYYYY!

        Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 18:14.
      • Lyts1985
        Member
        Since: Jan 2009

        Lol. Did you even read the article? It’s not saying you can’t access things when the network is down, in general, but how the writer has been screwed over by Sony’s own policy regarding system activation and potential illegal access to his account.

        Read the article blackarts, then try again!

        Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 22:30.
      • blackarts
        Banned
        Since: Feb 2015

        This comment is hidden.

        Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 23:04.
      • Aran Suddi
        Member
        Since: Sep 2011

        Actually it isn’t untrue. And I find it quite insulting that you would insinuate I am lying purely for hits. Once my PS4 somehow became a secondary console after my account was compromised, and I was kicked out from accessing my digital library Netflix & Amazon also became locked out.

        They wouldn’t have been locked out had my console remained as a primary while PSN was down.

        Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 23:52.
      • Aran Suddi
        Member
        Since: Sep 2011

        And I don’t expect you to believe me without proof. So here’s my tweet from January 15th.

        https://twitter.com/AranSuddi/status/555789805741965313?s=09

        Comment posted on 05/02/2015 at 00:09.
      • blackarts
        Banned
        Since: Feb 2015

        This comment is hidden.

        Comment posted on 05/02/2015 at 08:03.
      • blast71
        Member
        Since: May 2012

        Fanboy much!?

        Comment posted on 05/02/2015 at 17:07.
      • Lyts1985
        Member
        Since: Jan 2009

        You’re missing the point blackarts. He’s not saying he couldn’t access it solely because the network was down. He’s saying he couldn’t access it because somebody has set his only PS4 to a secondary unit on his account; secondary units *must* be logged on to the PSN to access downloaded content, as per the PSN T&Cs

        Still struggling?

        Comment posted on 05/02/2015 at 23:04.
  2. XisTG
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    Although I’ve only bumped into this issue once, it did make me feel like you; why should I need to connect to PSN to play a single player game that I bought from their store?

    Quick question: you say that the 6 month limit is for unregistered consoles only. I thought it was standard for everyone, is there a place to register it and decrease that ridiculous time limit? :)

    Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 09:12.
    • Aran Suddi
      Member
      Since: Sep 2011

      So the way it works is that once consoles get deactivated through your SEN account on the website you can’t repeat the process for six months. I found mine had been deactivated through the site after the account had been compromised. This means I can’t activate my consoles until that time limit is over.

      There is no way to get around it.

      Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 09:25.
      • XisTG
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        six months… thank you for replying Aran :)

        Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 10:10.
      • blackarts
        Banned
        Since: Feb 2015

        This comment is hidden.

        Comment posted on 05/02/2015 at 08:05.
  3. DrDamn
    Member
    Since: Dec 2013

    It’s a similar situation on X1 too isn’t it? You have a Home console, if you aren’t on your Home console then you can only play games if you are signed in. Obviously MS network has proven a little more resilient than Sony’s so far and perhaps you can set your console as your home one without de-activating another which you (or someone else) had previously set. The basic principle of the article carries across though.

    Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 09:33.
  4. beeje13
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Just checked that mine are ok and thankfully they are.

    Some things really need fixing here:

    PSN Support’s inability to manually activate/deactivate regardless of time since last activation/deactivation.

    The 15 minute time limit is very stingy, should be an hour at least, so you can get sorted out, and It is possible for the PS4 to know when PSN is down isn’t it? So that should cancel any authorisation checks needed.

    I’m not a huge fan of digital, I tend to only buy digital-only games digitally, because you can’t get any money back from them. And the high prices (necessary to stop games retailers going out of business). And the doubts over license/ownership.

    Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 09:42.
  5. rossthebassist
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    In relation to your issue, it’s clearly a secondary console thing, which sucks in general because if you said that the new console is now your primary it should just automatically switch the old console to secondary access regardless.
    The reason people kicked off about authentication access from Microsoft was because this was all the time. Disc based, digital, primary console did not matter it needed authentication regardless.
    Your issues are unfortunate circumstances due to Sony’s oversight of hardware faults.
    If Microsoft had stuck to their original plan then over xmas there would have been people really upset that they couldn’t even install a disc based game because of no authentication.

    you probably have done this already but try activating your console as the primary again. and i hope you get sorted soon :)

    Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 09:50.
    • Aran Suddi
      Member
      Since: Sep 2011

      I have. The problem is once I try to reactivate it says my account has another PS4 activated a primary, something I haven’t changed in over a year. It appears someone has got into my account, deactivated my consoles and activated their own. There is now no way to reactivate my own without Sony doing a manual deactivation their end.

      Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 09:56.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        So some scamp basically has your account on their PS4 and can play everything from your library? I guess that’s where those trophy lists appeared from that you mentioned a while back in Twitter?

        Sony should be able to trace where your Primary Account is being used, and brick that PS4, particularly if you are able to confirm personal details and verify your PSN account has been compromised (why would you want your own account blocked).

        This is a huge worry for me, particularly since I’ve probably accumulated thousands of pounds worth of games, DLC and exclusive content. If someone hacks my account I’m not confident in Sony’s customer services in blocking them and restoring my account to me! As time goes on, the more I buy and the more it becomes a concern.

        Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 10:47.
      • rossthebassist
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        aye, sucks like… hope you get sorted soon.

        Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 15:04.
      • blackarts
        Banned
        Since: Feb 2015

        This comment is hidden.

        Comment posted on 05/02/2015 at 08:07.
  6. wonkey-willy
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Had this a few times myself,unable to access map packs and stuff.. also I can’t watch video content in my ps3 because my old ps3 is still linked to my account but I can’t deactivate for some reason?

    Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 09:51.
  7. homerjnick
    Member
    Since: Jun 2010

    Not to point any blame here as I agree the strange situation with Sony & activations etc but Arran’s SEN account details have been leaked via some means.

    Someone, somewhere has got your email address and password for SEN, most likely from either spyware on a PC device, or another hacked website where you use the same credentials so whilst Sony’s silly situation about secondary PS4’s need to call home and getting locked out of your digital content and you cannot deactivate all consoles for months are all true and mental it still doesn’t take the point away that somehow your email address and password have been leaked.

    The PS4 that got refurbished is not the cause of it because other Vita devices have been added and you need the password, you cannot get your password off a PS4, you can only reset it.

    So therefore common sense must apply. If you return a console change your password…never ever use the same password for other sites, always use a unique password for SEN and change it often…I change mine once a month.

    As I say I agree with all the stupid stuff about Sony’s security and digital contents but it still doesn’t take the point away that your account details were leaked.

    And that responsibility lies with us.

    Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 10:01.
  8. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    just one of the reasons why, given the choice, i will always go physical over download.
    the exceptions being if the title is only available through download or if it’s a lot cheaper.

    call me a luddite, but i like to have control over the things i buy and pay for.
    if they want to control what i can do with my purchases, then i want to be able to dictate what they can do with the money i paid them.

    my internet went down a couple of days ago and while i couldn’t play FFXIV, for obvious reasons, i could still play Minecraft, which i bought off the store and downloaded, so it seems my PS4 is still registered as the primary for my account.

    Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 10:02.
  9. Sadodi
    Member
    Since: Nov 2014

    Maybe I didn’t understand the issue clear enough but in order to access digital games while Sony’s servers are down and you’re locked out from your games is to turn off your Internet through Network Settings. One time I couldn’t access one of my digital games because the servers were down so I just unchecked the checkbox for Internet access and then I could play it offline. But as I said, I don’t know if may have misinterpreted that.

    Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 10:03.
    • Aran Suddi
      Member
      Since: Sep 2011

      I tried that but they needed to contact the authorisation since my PS4 has been made secondary without my consent.

      Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 11:34.
  10. Crazy_Del
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    It is very worrying, I had that conversation with my friends and family. I told them if PS5 will be digital games all the way then consider me finished! PS4 will be my last gaming console! Plus I can return to all my games on PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 for replay value as I have kept at least 200 games as they were great and enjoyable. I still fear for PS4 as some games cannot play when offline such as Resident Evil HD (Digital plus my favourite game) and others such as First Light (Free from Plus) as that will annoy me since I paid for RE HD, it should be mine to keep until I die not until Sony stops supporting the PS4 in the future!

    Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 10:36.
    • homerjnick
      Member
      Since: Jun 2010

      Good points…there are already certain PS3 games that users have “bought” but can no longer download from the store even if they are in your Download List…games from CAPCOM like The Simpsons Arcade and XMEN because Sony & Capcom had a disagreement.

      It means folks who paid for that game can no longer play it…that’s mental.

      Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 10:45.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        Can you download those games from your Download list though?

        I know a licence for GTi Club expired which meant it was no longer available on the Store, but after searching through thousands of items in my Download list I was able to download it still.

        …if not, that’s outrageous!

        Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 11:07.
      • MrYd
        Member
        Since: Mar 2011

        Searching the download list? How do you do that then?

        I thought the only thing you could do was go through about 10 pages before getting so annoyed with it and loudly declaring “Screw this, I’ve got more enjoyable things to do, like punching myself repeatedly in the testicles”

        Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 11:33.
      • homerjnick
        Member
        Since: Jun 2010

        Nope you cannot, they are in my download list but you cannot download them…Sony’s reply to me was they were removed from the store after a disagreement with CAPCOM…I asked for a refund then which of course I did not get…

        I have PS+ but I never buy digital games at all…because you never own them, you simply buy the right to use them and they can revoke that at any point without having to give you back your cash.

        It’s like a publisher coming to your house and manually picking up your physical copy of the game and telling you they don’t allow that game on Sony consoles anymore.

        Comment posted on 04/02/2015 at 11:33.

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