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Sony says protecting content made it hackers' target


TOKYO—Sony Corp.believes it was targeted by hackers because it tried to protect its intellectual property, CEO Howard Stringer told a shareholders' meeting at which he sidestepped a call for him to step down over the incident.

No-one has claimed responsibility for the massive hacking attack in April, in which details of 77 million PlayStation videogame user accounts were leaked, but many have speculated the attack was sparked by Sony's efforts to prevent unauthorized modifications to PS3 game consoles.

"We believe that we first became the subject of attack because we tried to protect our IP (intellectual property), our content, in this case videogames," Mr. Stringer told shareholders at Tuesday's meeting in response to a question about the background to the incident.

"These are our corporate assets, and there are those that don't want us to protect them, they want everything to be free," he said, adding that many other corporations and organizations had also been hacked.

Mr. Stringer did not comment directly when another shareholder asked him to step down to allow the company to make a fresh start after what is believed to be the world's biggest ever Internet security breach. The shareholders comments were greeted with scattered applause.

Mr. Stringer, a Welsh-born former TV producer, said only that his foremost responsibility was to oversee the company's development and to nurture the next generation of management.

In April, Sony appointed Kazuo Hirai, 50, as second in command, and Mr. Stringer has said he is in pole position to take over the top job, though the timing is unclear.

Sony says PlayStation Network usage has returned to levels about 90% of those before the security breach, but some users remain angry.

A court case filed in the United States this month accuses Sony of laying off employees in a unit responsible for network security two weeks before the hacking incident.

Sony also spent lavishly on security to protect its own corporate information while failing to do the same for its customers' data, the proposed class action lawsuit alleges.

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