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PSN Hack: What’s Happening?

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Whether you’re a PSN (Playstation Network) user or not, you’ll have heard of the big issue that’s surrounding the news, forums, social networks, and the long standing platform of ‘word of mouth’, but what exactly is happening?

On Wednesday, 20 of April, 2011, the Playstation Network unexpectedly went down. Users who tried to login were presented with an ‘80710a06’ error code. Shortly after, Sony replaced the error code with the “PlayStation Network is currently undergoing maintenance” — maintenance which Sony said would last a day or two. That wouldn’t have been so bad, I mean, maintenance for a Network such as PSN means added usability for us — the users — and that’s a good thing, right? Well, it turned out that the maintenance went a little deeper than Sony initially claimed.

Three days later, on 23 of April, Sony announced that the Playstation Network outage was due to “external intrusion”, but did not release any additional information to assist the statement, or even a timetable as to when we could start using PSN again.

An external intrusion? That didn’t exactly go down well, and the fact that Sony’s Public Relations didn’t act sooner was even worse. Many PSN users were left uneasy as the lack of information from Sony’s side regarding the matter, was somewhat disbelieving.

It wasn’t until a whole week later, on 27 of April, that the scale of the security breach became apparent, when a statement on the Playstation Blog was released, it turned out that PSN and Qriocity users information had been compromised.

An unknown source had infiltrated the Playstation Network and stolen personal information from Playstation 3 and PSP users, including name, address, e-mail address, and login details for PSN and Qriocity.  Although users’ credit card data was encrypted, Sony claimed there was no evidence it was stolen, but that theft of the data could not be ruled out, which Sony answered on the Playstation Blog:

When asked “Was my credit card data taken“, Sony publicly states:

While all credit card information stored in our systems is encrypted and there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained. Keep in mind, however that your credit card security code (sometimes called a CVC or CSC number) has not been obtained because we never requested it from anyone who has joined the PlayStation Network or Qriocity, and is therefore not stored anywhere in our system.

Following the statements made on the Playstation Blog, a later post on 28 of April, said that:

Our employees have been working day and night to restore operations as quickly as possible, and we expect to have some services up and running within a week from yesterday. However, we want to be very clear that we will only restore operations when we are confident that the network is secure.

Patrick Seybold (Sr. Director, Corporate Communications & Social Media) added in an update that the Playstation Network would be back up and running on 3 of May – two whole weeks after the malicious attack. Sony also stated that they “are working closely with a recognised technology security firm in order to find those responsible for this criminal act, no matter where in the world they might be located.”

But is it enough? How many users have been victims of this malicious hacker attack? And what of the millions that are signed up to subscription based services such as Playstation Plus and DC Universe Online? These people are essentially paying for a service they can’t use. Whilst there are no specific answers at present, Sony is apparently considering refunds, releasing an answer on their FAQ:

I want my money back (subscription fee, content) since the PSN/Qriocity was not available.

While we are still assessing the impact of this incident, we recognize that this may have had financial impact on our loyal customers. We are currently reviewing options and will update you when the service is restored.

But does this make any difference? What makes users of PSN (including myself) angry, is that it took a whole week for this to come to light.

With 77 million registered PlayStation Network users, just how many have been affected? It’s such a much used service that if the worst is true and many of these millions are affected, then Sony has catapulted itself into one of the most high profiled and incredibly catastrophic online personal security breaches, ever.

And that’s not good.

When my personal information is compromised, Sony should be on hand straight away to inform me of the issues. But no, a whole week later I find out, by which time I can’t even sign into PSN to check what information of mine Sony actually has.

Sony’s public relations has left a lot to be desired. We the consumer, should be number one on their list; we’re the ones who keep them afloat, yet we’re left in the dark when the biggest problem they’ve faced with this generation of consoles is revealed. Our identities and personal information are at risk, but we’re the last to know.

Of course, this isn’t the first time accounts have been hacked, as the likes of World of Warcraft are targeted an awful lot, so the actual problem isn’t so much of a shock, but Sony’s sluggish response is.

In time, more information will come to light about what specifically occurred, but moving forward I’m pretty certain that Sony will be making the Playstation Network security much tighter, albeit with users taking more notice of their own accounts as well.

Will I continue to use PSN after all this? Sure. Just not as part of the loyal fan base Sony has neglected regarding the matter. I’ve always defended PSN — a free online service that allows me to play with friends, buy and download games, demos, music and movies, as well as be a part of a community via the PSN only service, Home. All this for free, whereas Xbox Live requires a payment (a small payment, but obviously not as cheap as free).

Whether you’ve been using PSN as an early adopter, or have only just recently started on it, it is clear that Sony isn’t delivering a service they promised, and that could seriously affect future sales when it comes to the ongoing war between the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

Now, as my PS3 sits in the naughty corner, I shall return to my Xbox 360 and Wii where my personal information is safe (maybe)…

If you’re worried you may have been affected, Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity, has released a guide on IGN on what signs to look for.

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About Callum Povey

Callum Povey, also known as the hairy one. More than once he’s been described as both ruggish AND dashing. Cal was once a born again unicyclist, until he discovered that he wasn't. True story. You can find him writing for publications such as Blogcritics, VentureBeat, GamesBeat and also a presenter on Podcast vs Player. He also has two books published, which you can buy with your hands and read with your eyes. Imagine that! Above all else, he's a proud father and geek.
  • Shinmigami

    And now it has spread to SOE so everyone who used any of their MMO’s need to change their account numbers.