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Sony apologizes, details PlayStation Network attack

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By Martyn Williams
May 1, 2011 04:45 AM ET

IDG News Service - Sony's PlayStation Network and Qriocity online services will begin a phased resumption this week, after the company took them offline in response to a "very sophisticated" intrusion, the company said Sunday.

Online gaming and access to unexpired movie rentals will be the first services to return on the PlayStation Network, while Qriocity users will be able to use the Music on Demand service. Other functions, including the PlayStation Store, will be available by mid-May, said Kaz Hirai, head of Sony's gaming division, during a rare Sunday news conference.

"We'd like to extend our apologies to the many PlayStation Network and Qriocity users who we worried," said Hirai. "We potentially compromised their customer data. We offer our sincerest apologies."

Sony took the two services offline on April 20 after an intrusion was detected on the network's servers, which live in an AT&T data center in San Diego. Sony discovered the intrusion after it was alerted to unusual network activity a day earlier, said Hirai.

Sony initially responded by asking a computer security company to investigate the intrusion. When it became apparent that customer information could have been stolen, Sony employed a second specialist company, said Hirai.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations has launched a criminal investigation into the attack, he said.

Sony's investigation is still continuing and, as such, the company still doesn't have a clear picture of what exactly was stolen and how many accounts were affected. The company believes there is a high probability that personal information was taken, including usernames for the service and associated passwords in encrypted form, names, addresses, birthdates and e-mail addresses. Sony hasn't determined how many accounts were hit, but the attack could potentially affect all 77 million accounts.

About 10 million accounts have credit card numbers associated with them, but Sony said it had no evidence those numbers were stolen. The credit card numbers, unlike the personal information, are stored in an encrypted database, although Sony has not said what encryption system was used.

Nevertheless, Sony advised customers to watch out for unusual activity on their credit card accounts. It has discovered no such cases so far, said Hirai. Sony will pay the cost of reissuing credit cards based on user requests.

The attack was launched from an application server that sits behind a web server and two firewalls on Sony's network, said Shinji Hasejima, Sony's chief information officer.

"It was a very sophisticated technique that was used to access our system," said Hasejima.

Ten days after the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services were taken offline, Sony executives including the head of its gaming division apologized on Sunday for the potential loss of personal information on millions of customers.

The initial attack was disguised as a purchase, so wasn't flagged by network security systems. It exploited a known vulnerability in the application server to plant software that was used to access the database server that sat behind the third firewall, said Hasejima.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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