Across North America yesterday evening, PlayStation Network returned after a 23-day total blackout. In a process spanning about seven hours, the PlayStation 3's online capabilities gradually reactivated state-by-state, beginning in New York and ending in Texas. As gamers rushed to message boards to verify the news in their precincts, the evening had the feel of an election night, one whose results were cheered and celebrated by all.
This is the end of a chapter, not the whole story but, for millions, it does bring closure to something that swiftly metastasized from a network hiccup to one of the largest data breaches in history. Its perpetrators were at first thought to be goofball hackers, and now are understood to be criminals with quite sophisticated means. As long as PSN remained dark with no estimate for its return, there seemed to be no limit to the bad news. Bringing back PlayStation Network at least removes the "What next?" dread that clung to this crisis for most of its three-week lifespan.
Sony endured more than just the worst three weeks in PlayStation's history. It faced withering criticism from the press, government officials and, of course, its own customers as it labored to restore a global online service counting some 77 million users. Assuredly this will all become a case study in areas of corporate crisis management and network security. For now, Sony deserves our gratitude and a note of congratulations. It's Sunday; let the quarterbacking resume tomorrow.
This is a watershed moment in video gaming, and not in a happy way. It reminds us that, although a service such as PSN may be the custodians of our privacy and personal information, we have chosen to share it with them. We should be mindful that there will always be determined malefactors seeking to pry that information loose. They will act. We should too.
Using separate, secure passwords, and changing them periodically-especially in accounts that contain credit card numbers or other readily exploitable information-these are either inconveniences or responsibilities in a digital society. We're well past the days when considering what information to share and who we share it with and availing ourselves of privacy settings are choices made by excessively cautious persons. This should be mainstream prudent behavior. As video gaming is enjoyed by millions of adolescents and young adults, it's an especially teachable moment for them, too.
PSN still has some work to do before its services are fully back to normal. PlayStation Store must return, a situation still of considerable concern to developers who sell through it. Governments remain interested in Sony demonstrating it has implemented enhanced security. Yes, there are and will be lawsuits.
There will also be a raft of goodwill gestures and make-goods coming to millions of PSN and Sony Online Entertainment customers. And while the outage will likely do damage to community numbers of certain games with heavy online components, most will likely return with forgiveness. The games will go on, and many disappointments will gradually fade.
Yet let's hope the last major headline has not been written. That should concern the arrest of the criminals whose attack brought down PlayStation Network. May they face formidable and painful consequences.