Even Once the PlayStation Network Is Back, This Thing Is Far from Over

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This article has been cross-posted from our partner site, Technologizer.

I’m not a PlayStation Network member, or much of a gamer at all. But I’m kind of fascinated by Internet outages–and the one currently affecting Sony’s PlayStation Network and Qriocity service is one for the record books. In fact, it may be the worst one of all time, if you multiply the number of people impacted by the hours of the outage. And it continues on, with no evidence that it’s going to end soon. (Sony, which blithely said it might last for a day or two at first, is no longer making any predictions.)

[UPDATE: Some commenters have rightly reminded me of the two-week Xbox Live outage back in 2008–a less interesting, but lengthier (so far!) service interruption.]

[UPDATE 2: Sony now admits the PlayStation Network breach involved “a compromise of personal information as a result of an illegal intrusion on our systems,” and is urging users to take action to protect themselves by being “especially aware of email, telephone, and postal mail scams that ask for personal or sensitive information.”]

A very basic timeline of events to date:

  • In January, Sony sued jailbreaking guru George Hotz and others over a PlayStation jailbreak that permitted the installation of unapproved apps.
  • On April 4th, the online shadow army known as “Anonymous,” upset over Sony’s lawsuit against PlayStation hacker George Hotz, managed to use denial-of-service attracks to take down
  • On April 11th, Sony settled with Hotz.
  • On Wednesday of last week, Sony’s PlayStation Blog said that the company was aware “certain functions” of the PlayStation Network were down.
  • On Thursday, it said that it might be “a full day or two” before things got back to normal.
  • On Friday, it said that an “external intrusion” had impacted PSN and Qriocity services, and that it had shut them off until it could ensure “smooth and secure” operation.
  • Also on Friday, Anonymous denied that it had caused the outage.
  • On Saturday, it said that it was undertaking a “time-consuming” rebuilding of its network infrastructure.
  • On Monday, it said that it was working to restore the services “quickly,” but had no information about how long it would be until they returned.
  • Today’s Tuesday, so if the outage persists for another day, it’ll have gone on for a week. I can’t think of any major Internet service that’s been toast for so long.

Everybody’s entitled to grade Sony’s communications about all this thus far for themselves, but one lesson is obvious: if your service is down, apologize a lot–and don’t make any predictions about when it’ll be back.

Even once PSN is back online, the story isn’t over. Unlike other famous outages–AOL, eBay, Skype–this one is dizzying in its multidimensionality. A few questions I still have:

  • Did the “external intrusion” compromise any of PlayStation Network members’ personal information?
  • Was the “external intrusion” a brilliant attack on a well-protected system, or was the PSN poorly defended until now? (Sony had plenty of warning that its online presence might be subject to attack–in fact, Anonymous said “you should have expected us.“)
  • Will Sony ever explain what happened? (Right now, it’s not even clear how much of the catastrophe is due to the “external intrusion” and how much stems from Sony willfully shutting down the service to in institute new security protections.
  • “External intrusion” sounds illegal. Will we ever learn who was responsible for it, and will that person or persons face legal repercussions?
  • If anyone does get in trouble for this, will it spur continued cyberattacks against Sony?
  • How will Sony accommodate the millions of customers who can’t play networked games or get to Qriocity services? (A pro-rated adjustment to their accounts hardly seems sufficient.)
  • Once normalcy returns, will PSN fans just go back to their gaming, or will the irate gamers who are currently threatening to flee to the Xbox do so?
  • What are the implications for every other large institution on the planet that might tick off “Anonymous” or another group of savvy, pissy geeks? Was PSN uniquely vulnerable, or is this an early battle in an epic war?

Oh, and one other question:

When the heck will PlayStation Network come back online?

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