Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sony Networks, At Last, Fully Restored Online

Sony's online networks are finally, fully back online. On Monday, the electronics and software giant said that its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services will be up again in Japan, the last market to be restored.

The services to Japanese customers resumed Wednesday, about two and a half months after the outage of the Sony networks due to hacker attacks. Services in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere were restored weeks ago, but the Japanese government required Sony to provide details and assurances about the security Relevant Products/Services of their networks before allowing them online again.

'Huge Black Eye'

In May, Kazushige Nobutani, director of Media and Content Industry in the Japanese Ministry of Economy, said that the government had indicated in meetings with Sony that it wanted two things. The first was "preventative measures," as the government felt the company had not provided details about how it was going to avoid another such outages in the future.

The other component sought by the government was a plan to regain confidence among users.

To help restore confidence among users, Sony had offered a "Welcome Back" campaign of various giveaways. While those offers have mostly concluded in the main Sony markets, it is just now being offered to Japanese customers.

Michael Gartenberg, Research Director at the Gartner Relevant Products/Services Group, said that the outage was "a huge black eye for Sony," in that it showed the company was "not adequately protecting user data Relevant Products/Services and was taking their time" in informing users of a breach that affected confidential customer Relevant Products/Services information.

'Errors, Breaches Happen'

Over all, Gartenberg said, the outage was "a series of lessons in 'how not to use social media' to respond to a crisis. He added that, at this point, some users might "think twice about giving their information to Sony," not only because of the company's approach to handling customer data, but because "there have been so many Sony properties coming under attack."

Gartenberg noted that Sony can recover from this episode, if they start "doing things right," such as showing that they are taking greater precautions, and, when things go wrong, "acknowledging that and being more pro-active" in fixing the problems and informing customers.

"Errors and breaches happen," he said, "and a lot depends simply on how you respond."

The company has been criticized by industry observers and members of Congress for not revealing earlier that users' personal data was possibly stolen. The initial security breach was noticed by Sony on April 19, PlayStation Network (PSN) was shut down on April 20, and users were notified of the data breach and possible loss of personal information on April 26.

Sony has said that it wasn't sure about the data loss until April 25. Chief Executive Howard Stringer has said that talking about the loss of data before it was confirmed would have been "irresponsible." He has compared it to finding out if things are missing when "your house has been burglarized," before you call the police.

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