May 11th, 2011
Perhaps the question should be: “If I hold my breath waiting for Sony to answer and I die, can someone sue?” Because Sony’s continued promises when PSN will be back up are like the kid who incessantly promises to clean his room and never does. Subscribers grow impatient, with the vast majority answering our poll are ready to switch to Xbox 360 and Xbox Live.
Late last month, Sony promised partial PSN restoration — gaming, music and video services — on May 4, a pledge repeated on May 1. It’s now May 8, and PSN is still down. I checked just before posting.
Two days ago, in another “I promise to clean my room soon” blog post, Patrick Seybold, Sony Senior director of Corporate Communications & Social Media, writes: “We know many of you are wanting to play games online, chat with your friends and enjoy all of the services PlayStation Network and Qriocity services have to offer, and trust me when I say we’re doing everything we can to make it happen. We will update you with more information as soon as we have it. We apologize for the delay and inconvenience of this network outage.”
What’s the excuse this time? Simply put, Sony cannot yet guarantee that PSN is secure enough to put back online. “When we held the press conference in Japan last week, based on what we knew, we expected to have the services online within a week,” Seybold explains. “We were unaware of the extent of the attack on Sony Online Entertainment servers, and we are taking this opportunity to conduct further testing of the incredibly complex system.”
Within hours of the May 1 promise to restore PSN last week, Sony Online Entertainment went down, and the company issued yet another security warning. Hackers had stolen data from SOE, and this time Sony confirmed that credit card information had been taken. At least 12,700 credit or debit card and 10,700 direct debt card numbers (with bank account numbers) were stolen from SOE subscribers in Austria, Germany, Netherlands and Spain. So the initial breach was much greater than Sony understood, and the company took much longer uncovering the problem.
Hackers broke into PlayStation Network between April 17-19 and stole massive amounts of personally-identifying user data. On April 20, Sony voluntarily took down the network, after discovering the hack. The action may have helped prevent further data losses and allowed Sony, third-party security investigators and law enforcement to begin a forensic analysis of the hack. To reiterate: Hackers didn’t take down PlayStation Network. Sony did. The same can be said of SOE, which Sony took offline, arguably belatedly, after discovering the hack.
In mid April 2011, Sony took down PlayStation Network after hackers stole subscribers’ personal data. PlayStation users, will you switch to Xbox?
Not even if Hell froze over
The full extent of the data breach is still unknown. Hackers did steal subscriber account IDs, passwords, addresses and phone numbers, security questions, email addresses and birth dates. Sony has insisted that, despite reports of millions of stolen credit card numbers being up for sale, the data was encrypted. While 77 million stolen credit cards makes great headlines, the other information is far more damaging since it can be used to steal peoples’ identities. Not surprisingly, lawsuits are piling up, one and one now, for each the PSN and SOE breaches and Sony’s handling of the aftermath.
Last week, Sony accused Anonymous of the security breach. Based on my limited knowledge of the hacker group, stealing user information for profit is out of character. Anonymous denied the accusation.
“When will PSN be back up?” is the still unanswered qustion. “We’re still working to confirm the security of the network infrastructure, as well as working with a variety of outside entities to confirm with them of the security of the system,” Seybold writes. “Verifying the system security is vital for the process of restoration. Additional comprehensive system checks and testing are still required, and we must complete that process before bringing the systems online. As you’ve heard us say, our utmost priorities are the security of the network and ensuring your data is safe. We won’t restore the services until we can test the system’s strength in these respects.”
That’s perhaps good for PSN subscribers’ personal data protection in the future. There are plenty of dissatisfied PlayStation Network users in the here and now. On April 30, I started a poll asking PSN subscribers: “Will you switch to Xbox?” The results aren’t so interesting as how they changed the longer the PSN outage went on. In the first few days, the results consistently hung around 54 percent switching. But the number crept up the longer PSN stayed down — to 60 percent, then 65 percent and as of this morning 72.94 percent based on 3,285 responses.
I’m surprised that someone hasn’t started a betting pool for when PSN will be back up.