The story of the PSN outage
There is no denying that the last seven weeks have been disastrous for Sony. The PlayStation brand hasn’t had to deal with such bad press since the shaky launch of the PlayStation 3. It’s been a difficult time for everyone involved, so PS3 Attitude thought we’d take one final look at the extraordinary events of the last month and a half.
17th-19th April – The attack
Exactly how the PlayStation Network was successfully hacked will probably always be a mystery, but the after-effects have been clear for all to see. Referred to by Sony as an illegal ‘external intrusion’, the hacker(s) gained access to the personal information of the 77 million registered PSN accounts, and caused the service to be offline for a total of 25 days.
20th April – PSN taken offline
Initially, it seemed like standard PSN maintenance, but it soon became apparent that the network wasn’t taken offline for any ordinary reason. A few days later, it would be revealed that Sony made the decision to suspend the service in order to investigate the extent of the intrusion.
21st April – Full restoration could take a ‘day or two’
Sony was still conducting its own investigation, and so had not yet announced the hack. However, at this stage the company were clearly far from discovering the seriousness of the attack, as a message on the PS blog stated that full restoration could take up to a ‘day or two’. PSN users (and Sony) had no idea they would have to wait nearly a whole month for the service to be resumed.
26th April – Sony confirms user details have been leaked
A week after the attack, Sony announced that the personal information of all 77 million PSN accounts had been leaked, including usernames, passwords and addresses. It was feared that users’ credit card details had also been obtained. Thankfully, there hasn’t been any evidence of fraud being committed.
1st May – Press conference in Japan
Sony Computer Entertainment held a press conference in Tokyo, in which the company thanked PSN users for their patience, revealed that they had been working with outside security firms, and announced that the initial phase of PSN restoration would begin shortly. That last point may have been a little hasty, as it was actually still two weeks away.
2nd May – SOE accounts also affected
Just when everything started to seem okay, the Sony Online Entertainment servers were taken offline, which SOE later announced was due to the company also being a victim of the ‘external intrusion’. The account information of all 25 million players of SOE games (which include DC Universe Online and Free Realms) were obtained by the hackers, bringing the total number of compromised accounts to over 100 million. Why it took Sony so long to discover that SOE had also been affected in the attack is unknown.
4th May – Sony sued for $1 billion
True, this is a ridiculously large amount of money, and the case will likely be laughed out of court, but it does at least show the anger that gamers felt for Sony in this period. 21-year-old Canadian, Natasha Maksimovic, filed a law suit against Sony for $1 billion due to the ‘fear, anxiety (and) emotional distress’ she had felt since Sony revealed that PSN users’ details had been compromised.
5th May – Anonymous denies involvement
The hacktivist group Anonymous, who had previously been responsible for bringing down several Sony websites a few weeks earlier, denied involvement in the attack on the PlayStation Network. Anonymous must have been very high on most people’s (including Sony’s) list of suspects, but the group stated that it ‘does not condone credit card theft’, and the attack on PSN therefore does not fit the modus operandi of Anonymous.
6th May – A letter from Howard Stringer
With the situation getting out of hand, Howard Stringer, chairman, president and CEO of Sony felt obligated to address PSN users directly, which he did in a letter posted on the PlayStation blog. He reiterated what president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, Kazuo Hirai, had said in the press conference earlier in the week, apologising to users and promising full restoration soon.
15th May – Restoration of PSN begins
After nearly four weeks, the restoration of the PlayStation Network finally began in earnest. North America came back online first, with Europe and the rest of the PAL territory joining soon after. Due to local protocol, Asia would have to wait another two weeks for the service to be resumed.
16th May – Sony details ‘Welcome Back’ package
With the PSN back up and running, Sony then unveiled their ‘Welcome Back’ plan, which, amongst other bonuses, would give PSN users a choice of two of five PS3 games including inFamous and WipEout HD Fury, and two of four PSP games including LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers. Maybe Sony should get hacked more often? Just kidding!
2nd June – PlayStation Store returns
And finally, let’s end this retrospective article on a high note; the much anticipated return of the PlayStation Store. Although some of the company’s decisions over the last few weeks have been questioned, there’s no doubt that Sony are now doing all they can to keep their consumers happy, with a bumper update and more content on the way.
Indeed, with the damage to the PlayStation Network now seemingly repaired, Sony can hopefully concentrate on repairing the damage done to the relationship between the company and its consumers. Although, we have to say, with four free games and at least 30 days of PlayStation Plus free to all PSN users, it would take the most demanding of people to not be satisfied with Sony’s offer.
A cyber attack on this scale is virtually unprecedented, so in the circumstances Sony have acted swiftly, effectively and professionally. Now let’s just hope the security of the PlayStation Network is as tough as Sony says, in order to prevent something like this from ever happening again.