Sony warns users of data loss from PlayStation network hack

With network down 6 days and counting, Sony admits security breach

It's been six days and the PlayStation Network is still offline, and now Sony has acknowledged that the problem involved a security breach.

The online multiplayer gaming site, along with Qriocity, Sony's cloud music subscription service, went down last Wednesday and may not be back for another week.

After the outage, Sony told users their sites had been hacked, prompting PlayStation engineers to take them offline to investigate.

Today, the company posted information online admitting that the hack had breached users' account information, including name, address, birth date, purchase history and online ID.

Patrick Seybold, a senior director at Sony, also noted in the blog post that there's no evidence users' credit card information was stolen. However, he added that "out of an abundance of caution," Sony is advising users that their credit card number and expiration date may have been obtained.

"We have discovered that between April 17 and April 19, 2011, certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network," the company wrote. "We thank you for your patience as we complete our investigation of this incident, and we regret any inconvenience. Our teams are working around the clock on this, and services will be restored as soon as possible."

Users were first frustrated with their inability to get online and play their favorite games; now, they're frustrated about the security breach and what it might mean for them financially. And they've been taking to Twitter to vent about it.

Tylerbaird tweeted: "I hate to say it, but could this be the death of the #PlayStation? Sounds like the hackers even took the kitchen sink."

And Ctrlzee tweeted: "Another upsetting thing about the PS3 data theft - you can't even protect your account by changing your password since the service is down."

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said the site outage alone was causing trouble for Sony. The data breach acknowledgement just heaps on more.

"This is the nightmare scenario for any videogame network vendor," said Olds. "Not only were they hacked, but it's taken them down for almost a week so far. Plus, they don't know the extent of the damage so far. They can't say if personal data or credit cards have been stolen. This is bad."

He added that compounding the problem is the number of kids and teenagers who use the PlayStation Network. Parents aren't going to be happy that their children's information, as well as their own data and possibly even their credit card information, has been breached.

"This incident is a huge blow to the trust between customers and Sony," he noted. "If hackers have accessed personal info and credit card data, it could cripple Sony's online gaming business. And it could have a very negative impact on their video game console business overall. If enough users perceive that Sony's network can't be trusted, they'll flee."

That, he added, could hurt Sony's entire gaming platform.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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