Has Microsoft "Un-Banned" Outlawed Xbox 360 Consoles?S

That's what internet chatter throughout the course of the evening would have you believe, with reports coming in that some banned Xbox 360 consoles (and their associated Gamertags) can suddenly re-connect to Xbox Live.

Users of various forums, including xbox-scene, have over the last few hours found that modified consoles banned from Xbox Live for using "flashed" disc drives are being allowed back on the service. Sort of.

While we've received confirmation that banned consoles are now able to reconnect to Xbox Live, we've yet to hear of anybody doing anything more than simply sign in (as in, play online or purchase content), so there's no word yet on whether these consoles are genuinely "un-banned" or whether they can now simply go one step further than they could previously go before being locked out.

Note that this applies to consoles that were banned for being modified, specifically with a flashed disc drive (not other means, like a "JTAG" mod). It does not apply for bans handed out to people being assholes over Xbox Live.

What's interesting here is the timing of the move, right in the middle of rival Sony's extended PSN outage. While some will no doubt point to this as the first signs of Microsoft's online security being compromised, it appears more likely it's part of the company's own internal testing, which is surely being kicked into overdrive in the wake of Sony's problems.

Another entirely plausible theory is that it has something to do with Microsoft's upcoming change to a new disc format, which would render previous copy protection hacks (based on the old format) worthless.

That or, you know. It's a trap.

We've contacted Microsoft for comment on just why these dead machines have been brought back from the grave, and will update if we hear back.

UPDATE - The reanimated machines are now banned once more. That was fast!