Sony in 'final testing' for PSN return

[UPDATE] Electronics giant says global network and security teams undertaking "important step" toward bringing services back online; Stringer issues mea culpa.

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The PlayStation Network has been offline for more than two weeks, but Sony today indicated the online service's return is nearly nigh. In a post on the official PlayStation blog, Sony Computer Entertainment America senior director of corporate communications and social media Patrick Seybold said the company's global network and security teams today "began the final stages of internal testing of the new system, an important step towards restoring PlayStation Network and Qriocity services."

PSN should start to come back online this week.
PSN should start to come back online this week.

Seybold provided no new time frame for when PSN and Qriocity services, which first went down April 20, would be brought back online. Last weekend, Sony said some aspects of the services would be back later this week, with the PlayStation Store reopening its virtual doors sometime this month. Among the functionality expected back in the near term are online multiplayer, friends lists, and voice chat. Account management features will also be back, with Sony requiring that users update their passwords as soon as they log back in.

Passwords--along with names, addresses, and credit card numbers--were among the personal information stolen by hackers in an April attack on Sony's servers that prompted the company to take down PSN and rebuild its security in the first place. Sony Online Entertainment also lost customer information to a security breach, although the online game specialist has not provided a specific window for the return of its titles like Everquest and DC Universe Online.

The flap has caught the attention of Congress, with the US House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade now holding hearings on the threat of data theft to US consumers. While Sony opted to send a letter instead of a personal appearance before the legislators on the subcommittee, security experts were more willing to answer lawmakers' questions. One of them, Dr. Gene Spafford of Purdue University, was critical of the electronics giant, saying that the company knew the PSN's defenses were outdated for months prior to the attack.

[UPDATE] Late today, Sony Corporation CEO Howard Stringer issued an open letter of apology to those impacted by the PSN outage and personal data theft. According to Stringer, rectifying the situation is a primary concern for the entire company and not just its computer entertainment arm.

"I know this has been a frustrating time for all of you," Stringer began. "Let me assure you that the resources of this company have been focused on investigating the entire nature and impact of the cyberattack we've all experienced and on fixing it. We are absolutely dedicated to restoring full and safe service as soon as possible and rewarding you for your patience. We will settle for nothing less."

"As a company we--and I--apologize for the inconvenience and concern caused by this attack," he continued. "Under the leadership of Kazuo Hirai, we have teams working around the clock and around the world to restore your access to those services as quickly, and as safely, as possible."

Stringer also addressed Sony's delayed response in notifying the public of the PSN security breach, reiterating in brief the information outlined to the US House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade yesterday.

The Sony executive also emphasized that the company is working with law-enforcement officials to bring those responsible for the security breach to justice. In the process, Stringer paralleled the security concern to Japan's devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor crises from March, which has thus far claimed nearly 15,000 lives with more than 10,000 people still missing.

"In the last few months, Sony has faced a terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan," he said. "But now we are facing a very man-made event--a criminal attack on us--and on you--and we are working with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies around the world to apprehend those responsible."

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