When you’re GeoHot, you’re hot; when you’re Howard Stringer, you’re not

Hackers What a striking contrast in the fortunes of Sony chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer, and those of George Hotz, the hacker formerly known as GeoHot, who was sued by Sony earlier this year for cracking the PS3 security system.

Facing frustrated, and at times hostile, shareholders at Sony’s annual meeting Tuesday, Stringer acknowledged that the lawsuit against Hotz triggered a backlash from hacker groups that led to the devastating cyber-attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network and Qriocity network in May and June.

“We believe that we first became the subject of attack because we tried to protect our IP, our content, in this case videogames,” Stinger said.

The attack, which compromised 77 million user accounts, took the two online networks offline for weeks, costing Sony hundreds of millions of dollars and dealing a huge blow to its reputation. Security experts have accused Sony of being lax in guarding user data and ignoring signs that its networks were vulnerable.

Stringer is now paying a price for the debacle, albeit in a subtle, face-saving Japanese way. The company announced at the meeting that his pay was docked 16 percent for the fiscal year ended March 31, to roughly $4.3 million, but it doesn’t appear he’ll be forced to step down, at least not right away. The board also approved the elevation of Kazuo Harai to a position overseeing all of Sony’s consumer electronics businesses, making him an obvious candidate to succeed the 69-year old Stringer when his contract is up, if not sooner.

“My foremost responsibility to the board and all of you is to further advance the transformation process, firmly establish Sony’s position as a global product, content and service leader in the networked digital era and ensure our continued development and growth,” Stringer told the shareholders.

Translation: Sayonara.

Sony sued Hotz in January after he posted instructions online that allowed PlayStation 3 users to run their own applications on the console. Since the instructions involved circumventing the encryption system intended to ensure that only authorized software would play on PS3, Sony claimed the release of the information violated the DMCA.

At the time of the lawsuit, Hotz had already built a reputation for himself in the hacker community for coming up with the LimeRa1n exploit that enabled many iPhone jailbreaks, which may have made him an inviting target for Sony.

Hotz settled the case with Sony in April and a week later the cyber-attacks on the PlayStation Network began.

But don’t cry for GeoHot. He’s apparently  landed a gig at Facebook, which is probably a lot more fun than working at Sony right now. What exactly he’s doing there hasn’t been disclosed. But given the apparently chilly relations right now between Apple and Facebook, having someone in-house who knows his way in and around iOS could certainly help Facebook optimize its iPad app, especially since its unlikely to get much help from Apple.

Well played, GeoHot.