Sony on Saturday announced the return of games and media services to the beleaguered PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment's Station.com, including relaunch of online gameplay and friends lists.
A new mandatory patch is now available for PlayStation 3 users who try to sign in to PSN. News of the new firmware is the first official update on PSN's status since about a week ago, when Sony said it would miss its goal of getting some network services back up and running during the May 7-8 weekend.
Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai said in a new video that the "first phase" of its games and media network's relaunch is now available in "most regions" of the world.
The relaunch begins in the Americas, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Middle East, with a full restoration of all online services by the end of May, as originally planned by Sony.
PSN has been down since April 20, when Sony shut down the service after discovering a cyber attack had exploited a security hole, compromising personal information for about 77 million registered accounts.
Return Of Core Online Services
PSN users can now sign into PSN and Qriocity, play games online on PSP and PlayStation 3, access Music Unlimited (for PC and PS3 subscribers), and access third-party services including Netflix (which has been accessible during the outage for some users), Hulu, Vudu and MLB.tv.
Other features that are back online are PSN friends lists, chat, trophy comparison, video rental playback and PlayStation Home.
Sony Network Entertainment VP Eric Lempel explained PS3's mandatory patch 3.61, which is introducing the new layer of security: "If using a PS3, your password can only be changed on your own PS3 (or a PS3 on which your PSN account was activated), as an added layer of security."
"If you have never downloaded any content using your account on the system, an email will be sent to the registered sign-in ID (email address) associated with your account when you first attempt to sign-in to PSN."
Users will receive a confirmation email for the password change, then users can sign into the network using that new password.
Hirai said that other services like PlayStation Store and Qriocity's purchasing features will return "as soon as possible."
Security A "Full-Time Commitment"
Hirai said that Sony has "greatly updated" its security systems for its networks, including "advanced security technology, increased levels of encryption, additional firewalls and early warning systems" to warn against "any unusual activity" in its networks.
Hirai reiterated that Sony is offering customers ID theft protection programs for free, and stressed that cyber attacks are still a reality for any networked service.
"I wish I could tell you that technologies are available to completely protect any company against cyber attack," he said. "But unfortunately, the threat of cyber crime and data theft will continue to plague networks, companies, government agencies and consumers around the world for some time to come."
The executive said going forward, Sony will "make the protection of consumer data a full-time, company-wide commitment." The company created the new role of chief information security officer of SNEI following the cyber attack.
Return Of SOE Games
A few days after Sony took down PSN following the cyber attack, Sony Online Entertainment, the online gaming arm that develops and operates PC games including EverQuest, shut down its own services as Sony found an additional 24.6 million SOE accounts were compromised by the same attack.
With the restoration of PSN services also comes the return of "nearly all of SOE's portfolio of online games, the reinstatement of SOE's game forums and websites, and added functionality to require players to reset their passwords," SOE said in a statement.
Both SOE and PSN users will be receiving welcome back packages that offer gamers free content and services as part of an effort to win back consumer goodwill following the extended downtime.
"While we understand the importance of getting our services back online, we did not rush to do so at the expense of extensively and aggressively testing our enhanced security measures," Hirai said in a press release.
"Our consumers' safety remains our number one priority," Hirai added. "We want to assure our customers that their personal information is being protected with some of the best security technologies available today, so that everyone can feel comfortable enjoying all that PlayStation Network and Qriocity services have to offer."