Sony: PlayStation Network Will Return This Week

PlayStation Network, down since April 20, will return this week, said Kazuo Hirai, the second-in-command for Sony Corp., at a news conference today in Tokyo.

When PSN comes online, PS3 users will face a mandatory system software update that also requires them to change their account passwords before they can sign into the service. That password can be changed only on the same PS3 that activated the account, or through a validated email confirmation, Sony said.

The restoration of PSN will come in a regional phased rollout. A press statement from Sony said PSN's initial restoration will include online multiplayer for PS3 and PSP; access to account management and password reset; access to one's friends list, with chat functionality; access to PlayStation Home, and to the download of unexpired movie rentals and to Qriocity's Music Unlimited service.

Sony's statement implied that its PlayStation Store "and other Qriocity operations" would be slower to come back online than PSN, returning later in May, as the company continues "to reinforce and verify security" for both services.

Sony has also created a new chief information officer position to oversee security in the wake of the massive data breach that exposed 77 million account holders' personal information. A "Welcome Back" program offering free content to all subscribers, and a free 30-day subscription to PlayStation Plus members, will also be implemented.

Hirai outlined details of Sony's recovery plan today at a news conference in Japan. Regarding the "Welcome Back" program, alluded to in "make-good" promises extended by Sony Computer Entertainment earlier this week, all PlayStation Network subscribers will get a month of PlayStation Plus premium service free; existing PlayStation Plus subscribers will get their terms extended a month, free. "Selected PlayStation entertainment content" will also be offered for free, on a region-by-region basis, as a welcome-back inducement. The content type was not specified, only that "it will be announced in each region soon."

Sony laid blame for the 10-day PSN outage on "a criminal cyber-attack on the company's data center located in San Diego."

"This criminal act against our network had a significant impact not only on our consumers, but our entire industry," Hirai said in the statement. Hirai said Sony have worked around the clock to restore services, but "only after we had verified increased levels of security across our networks.

"Our global audience of PlayStation Network and Qriocity consumers were disrupted," Hirai said. "We have learned lessons along the way about the valued relationship with our consumers."

Sony said that since the April 20 blackout of its network, it hired "multiple expert information security firms" to conduct "an extensive audit of the system." Working with them, Sony said it has implemented new and greater security measures to secure personal information.

PlayStation Network has been dark since April 20. Since then, understanding of the outage has escalated from a service disruption, to a cyber-attack, to the compromising of 77 million registered users' information, to the possible loss of credit card numbers and anecdotal reports of fraud committed through them. It is one of the largest data breaches in history, with some estimates pegging Sony's resulting loss in the billions. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with the Federal Trade Commission, several state attorneys general, and now the Department of Homeland Security, as well as other governments, are also investigating.