Phased PSN Relaunch Begins This Week With Enhanced Security and “Welcome Back” Freebies

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Finally it appears that we are getting closer to the end of the PSN outage drama (excluding all the lawsuit nonsense that will likely play out for months and months to come). Sony has issued a press release early this morning on the first day of May, announcing details for the relaunch of PSN services.

Sony will be rolling the service out in phases by region, beginning sometime this week with the reactivation of online gameplay support for all PS3 and PSP games along with access to account management options, password reset, movie rentals, PlayStation Home, Friends Lists, chat functionality, and the Qriocity music download service for current subscribers.

There is no mention of the PlayStation Store in the initial relaunch phase, but with the investigation into credit card information still ongoing, it’s probably safer at this point if there is no storefront. Sony still maintains that there is no evidence of stolen credit card information, however, even amidst reports speculating that millions of credit card accounts are up for sale on the hacker black market. So far these claims sound sketchy, and recent identity theft cases reported after the PSN attack sound extremely coincidental. But still, if you are a PSN user with credit card information saved to your account, monitor your bank/credit card statements like a hawk for any suspicious activity (or change your card entirely if you feel so inclined).

As part of PSN’s beefier security, which includes enhanced data protection, additional firewalls, improved intrusion detection, and oversight from a new security team led by Chief Information Security Officer Shinji Hasejima, Sony will be releasing a mandatory system update forcing all registered PSN users to change their passwords before they can take their PS3s online again. And for added protection, users will only be able to change their password on the PS3 system in which their PSN account was activated (or via email confirmation).

And to appease the mob demanding restitution for the PSN outage, Sony will show its appreciation for the patience and loyalty of its customers with a “Welcome Back” program offering free 30-day PlayStation Plus memberships to all PSN users (existing subscribers will also get a free month), 30 days of free service for Qriocity subscribers, free premium PlayStation content tailored to each region, and other service benefits in the weeks ahead. Specifics on the free content to be offered in each region will be confirmed shortly. Sony Online Entertainment also has make-up plans for Free Realms and DC Universe Online players.

Personally, I don’t think Sony owes gamers free stuff — the company has already suffered enough in terms of lost trust, plummeting stock, and the damage of the attack itself. But I certainly appreciate the gesture, and hope it helps smooth things over with the PSN community at large.

The full press release is pasted in below.

Some PlayStation®Network and Qriocity™ Services to be Available This Week

Phased Global Rollout of Services to Begin Regionally; System Security Enhanced to Provide Greater Protection of Personal Information

TOKYO, May 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and Sony Network Entertainment International (SNEI, the company) announced they will shortly begin a phased restoration by region of PlayStation®Network and Qriocity™ services, beginning with gaming, music and video services to be turned on. The company also announced both a series of immediate steps to enhance security across the network and a new customer appreciation program to thank its customers for their patience and loyalty.

Following a criminal cyber-attack on the company’s data-center located in San Diego, California, U.S.A., SNEI quickly turned off the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services, engaged multiple expert information security firms over the course of several days and conducted an extensive audit of the system. Since then, the company has implemented a variety of new security measures to provide greater protection of personal information. SNEI and its third-party experts have conducted extensive tests to verify the security strength of the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services. With these measures in place, SCE and SNEI plan to start a phased rollout by region of the services shortly. The initial phase of the rollout will include, but is not limited to, the following:

– Restoration of Online game-play across the PlayStation®3 (PS3) and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) systems. This includes titles requiring online verification and downloaded games
– Access to Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity for PS3/PSP for existing subscribers
– Access to account management and password reset
– Access to download un-expired Movie Rentals on PS3, PSP and MediaGo
– PlayStation®Home
– Friends List
– Chat Functionality

Working closely with several outside security firms, the company has implemented significant security measures to further detect unauthorized activity and provide consumers with greater protection of their personal information. The company is also creating the position of Chief Information Security Officer, directly reporting to Shinji Hasejima, Chief Information Officer of Sony Corporation, to add a new position of expertise in and accountability for customer data protection and supplement existing information security personnel. The new security measures implemented include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Added automated software monitoring and configuration management to help defend against new attacks
– Enhanced levels of data protection and encryption
– Enhanced ability to detect software intrusions within the network, unauthorized access and unusual activity patterns
– Implementation of additional firewalls

The company also expedited an already planned move of the system to a new data center in a different location that has been under construction and development for several months. In addition, PS3 will have a forced system software update that will require all registered PlayStation Network users to change their account passwords before being able to sign into the service. As an added layer of security, that password can only be changed on the same PS3 in which that account was activated, or through validated email confirmation, a critical step to help further protect customer data.

The company is conducting a thorough and on-going investigation and working with law enforcement to track down and prosecute those responsible for the illegal intrusion.

“This criminal act against our network had a significant impact not only on our consumers, but our entire industry. These illegal attacks obviously highlight the widespread problem with cyber-security. We take the security of our consumers’ information very seriously and are committed to helping our consumers protect their personal data. In addition, the organization has worked around the clock to bring these services back online, and are doing so only after we had verified increased levels of security across our networks,” said Kazuo Hirai, Executive Deputy President, Sony Corporation. “Our global audience of PlayStation Network and Qriocity consumers was disrupted. We have learned lessons along the way about the valued relationship with our consumers, and to that end, we will be launching a customer appreciation program for registered consumers as a way of expressing our gratitude for their loyalty during this network downtime, as we work even harder to restore and regain their trust in us and our services.”

Complimentary Offering and “Welcome Back” Appreciation Program

While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, the company is committed to helping its customers protect their personal data and will provide a complimentary offering to assist users in enrolling in identity theft protection services and/or similar programs. The implementation will be at a local level and further details will be made available shortly in each region.

The company will also rollout the PlayStation Network and Qriocity “Welcome Back” program, to be offered worldwide, which will be tailored to specific markets to provide our consumers with a selection of service options and premium content as an expression of the company’s appreciation for their patience, support and continued loyalty.

Central components of the “Welcome Back” program will include:

– Each territory will be offering selected PlayStation entertainment content for free download. Specific details of this content will be announced in each region soon.
– All existing PlayStation Network customers will be provided with 30 days free membership in the PlayStation Plus premium service. Current members of PlayStation Plus will receive 30 days free service.
– Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity subscribers (in countries where the service is available) will receive 30 days free service.

Additional “Welcome Back” entertainment and service offerings will be rolled out over the coming weeks as the company returns the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services to the quality standard users have grown to enjoy and strive to exceed those exceptions.

SNEI will continue to reinforce and verify security for transactions before resuming the PlayStation®Store and other Qriocity operations, scheduled for this month.

For more information about the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services intrusion and restoration, please visit http://blog.us.playstation.com or http://blog.eu.playstation.com/.

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