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Sony PlayStation Network (PSN) Crash: How & When, a Timeline

How hackers took down one of gaming's biggest & most important networks, PSN

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PS3 Sixaxis Controller

PS3 Sixaxis Controller

© SCEA
The PlayStation network (PSN) has been down for over two weeks. This means gamers can't play online games, download new games, stream videos from the PlayStation Store, chat or send mail to one another... really, aside from downloading updates, nearly every networked function of the PlayStation 3 (PS3) has been disabled. And if you think gamers are upset, how do you think Sony feels?

Sure there have been apologies by Sony's big boss, Howard Stringer, and Kazuo Hirai, the man who made PlayStation what it is, and the company has promised to fix the problem, and even insure folks against damages. But the reality is that hackers broke into the PSN, millions of users' information, and the network is still down. It will be interesting to see how much one of the most public corporate hacks affects the PlayStation brand and those who love it.

The following is a timeline of Sony's recent public problem with hackers.

1/11/11 - Sony files sues hacker George Hotz, aka GeoHot, for figuring out how to bypass PS3 security, and for publishing it online. Up until this point the PS3 was the most secure of all the major consoles. This hack is referred to as "jailbreaking the PS3" and many worry it will allow users to copy games.

1/27/11 - Sony seeks a TRO, temporary restraining order, to stop GeoHot from distributing the jailbreaking hack to others.

2/12/11 - GeoHot stands up to Sony and posts a wildly entertaining rap video about their legal battle on YouTube.

2/19/11 - GeoHot starts blogging about the legal actions Sony takes against him.

3/6/11 - US Court grants Sony's motion to get all of the IP addresses of those who accessed GeoHot's webpage and had access to the PS3 jailbreaking info.

4/3/11 - The hacker group Anonymous launches computer attacks against Sony websites. They dub the operation #OpSony. They claim the attack is hacktivism, or hacks against Sony to punish them for taking legal actions they felt infringed upon hacker rights and freedom of speech.

4/11/11 - Sony settle suit with GeoHot.

4/19/11 - First signs of PlayStation Network (PSN) being attacked by hackers. Some PSN servers start rebooting on their own.

4/20/11 - Sony realizes that there was unauthorized access to the PSN servers. It detects that user data has been stolen. Sony brings in outside help to assess the damage. Sony is unsure how much data has been stolen, but knows that some has. It decides to take down the PlayStation network and 77 million users are not able to access the system as a result.

4/21/11 - Sony brings in another computer security company.

4/22/11 - Sony is still unsure as to how much data was stolen, and the extent of the hack. They turn info over to the FBI.

4/23/11 - Sony brings in a third outside team to help with the hack. They state that the attack was sophisticated and aggressive.

4/25/11 - Sony says it knows the amount of user data that was stolen. However, it does not know if or how much credit card info was stolen.

4/26/11 - Sony makes public announcement about the PSN hack. It starts working with several law enforcement agencies. Up to 77 million users personal information was at risk, and their credit card information may have been stolen.

4/28/11 - GeoHot denies having anything to do with the PSN hack.

4/29/11 - US House of Representatives ask for information from Sony. Considers passing legislation demanding that companies follow certain procedures and timeline in notifying customers of data theft.

4/30/11 - Kazuo Hirai, Sony's Representative CEO and driving force behind the PlayStation brand makes a public apology at a press conference about the PSN hack. States that Sony has upped its security and that the PSN will be up in a week. Sony does not make the stated deadline.

5/1/11 - Sony states that the Sony Online Entertainment servers were also hacked. These are not PlayStation Network servers, but rather ones used for Sony's online PC games, such as "Everquest," "DC Universe Online," and it's facebook games. Sony claims that there is evidence that Anonymous is involved. They claim a PSN file was named "Anonymous" and the hacker group's motto "We are Legion" was included.

5/4/11 - Sony delivers a report to the US Congress giving them information about the hacks. US Representative Bono Mack attacks Sony and accuses them of corporate irresponsibility. Sony put info about the PSN outage and user data theft on their blog, requiring users to search for info. Mack argues that companies have a duty to inform clients when their data is stolen.

5/5/11 - Anonymous denies having any part in credit card theft. They claim they are hacktivist, only interested in corrupt corporations and governments. Sony offers free ID theft insures to PSN users. Sony CEO Howard Stringer apologies for the PSN outage.

5/6/11 - Sony releases a statement saying that it will miss the one week deadline for restoring PSN service. No new date is given. Folks are very unsure about when the PSN will come back online.

5/9/11 - Sony announces that the PlayStation Network and its music service Qriocity will be fully restored by May 31st.

Update: 5/15/11 Majority of PSN and Qriocity services go back online, including online play, netflix, but not the PlayStation store. Sony announces the rest of the services will come back "soon." Users required to update to firmware 3.61 and change their PSN passwords to use services.

In an attempt to regain the trust of consumers, and to aid PSN users, on Sony offers a year's paid subscription to "AllClear ID Plus" a service that offers identity protection services as well as carries a $1 million dollar insurance against identity theft. Additionally they will offer a "PSN Welcome Back Package", which will include 30 days of free PlayStation Plus, as well as free games and other incentives to use the PSN again.

The hack certainly hurt Sony and all of us put out by the Great PSN Outage of 2011. Sony's lack of direct communication also affected us, and many PSN users had no idea what was going on for quite some time. I'm sure the PSN will come back up, and Sony will give us free things to try to butter us up. And it may work.

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