Welcome to day six of Sony’s PlayStation Network debacle, as Sony’s original suggestion of “a full day or two” offline stretches to nearly a week. We’re no closer to an explanation than we were six days ago, though the company’s intimated in a handful of laconic PlayStation blog updates that the trouble began with an “external intrusion,” and that it preemptively took the service offline with intent to “rebuild” something less susceptible to hacking.
While we wait, let’s talk a little about firmware. When speaking of the PlayStation 3, “firmware” refers to its brain-center–the software that dictates what the console’s capable of doing each time you boot up. Both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable allow users to manually install firmware, in the event they’re not able to pull the update down over the Internet. That option’s also made it possible over the years for hackers to install customized firmware, essentially unlocking features Sony reserves for developers.
A user claiming to be a moderator for a popular PS3 downloads forum has an intriguing (if highly speculative) theory up on Reddit about why the PSN went down. This user notes the outage corresponds loosely with the release of Rebug, a firmware tool that unlocks development features in a retail PS3. According to the theory, Rebug PS3 users may have gained access to Sony’s private developer network (the so-called “external intrusion”), entered fake credit card information (unchecked against an authentication service, this user reasons, since the network is private), and were thus able to pull down PSN content like gluttons feeding at trough.
Now again, we’re talking about highly–as in looking down at the clouds from the tip-top of Mt. Everest highly–speculative theorizing here. If we just take Sony at its word, all we know for sure is that the trigger was someone (or a group of someones) gaining illicit access to the PlayStation Network. We don’t know which aspect of the PSN Sony’s referring to, or whether the developer version intertwines in some fundamental way with the public version. We don’t know when it happened, or what exactly went down, or what sort of information the “external intrusion” may have extracted.
And so we wait, and watch, and–in the absence of more than cursory explanations from Sony–continue to traffic in guesses.
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