During a press conference in Tokyo, Sony directly addressed the media for the first time since shutting down its popular online gaming service, the PlayStation Network, over one week ago due to an illegal breach of security that compromised the personal data of almost eighty million gamers. The Japanese company detailed plans to reward current PSN users for their patience as experts rebuild the service’s infrastructure to prevent hackers from stealing sensitive information again in the future.

Creating a “Welcome Back” program, all existing PlayStation Network users will be given thirty days of free-access to PlayStation Plus, Sony’s premium subscription service, giving users discounts and early access to games. Those who have already subscribed to the service will be given an additional thirty days of membership at no additional charge. Sony also stated that they will be offering unannounced content throughout the free subscription period to make up for the unexpected loss of online play.

Kazuo Hirai, one of the executives at Sony, expressed the company’s feelings, deploring the activity of illegal hackers, in saying:

This criminal act against our network had a significant impact not only on our consumers, but our entire industry. These illegal attacks obviously highlight the widespread problem with cyber-security. We take the security of our consumers’ information very seriously and are committed to helping our consumers protect their personal data. In addition, the organization has worked around the clock to bring these services back online, and are doing so only after we had verified increased levels of security across our networks.

He went on further to describe how the company has learned valuable lessons about dealing with security issues and communicating problems to its extremely-large user base in saying:

Our global audience of PlayStation Network and Qriocity consumers was disrupted. We have learned lessons along the way about the valued relationship with our consumers, and to that end, we will be launching a customer appreciation program for registered consumers as a way of expressing our gratitude for their loyalty during this network downtime, as we work even harder to restore and regain their trust in us and our services.

Sony executives also stated that the Japanese company is actively involved in tracking down the criminal who hacked the network, complying with the Federal Bureau of Investigation every step of the way. The consumer electronics and software manufacturer went on to reaffirm that they believe no credit card information was taken, but encouraged users to keep careful eyes on their bank statements. Statistically, only 12 percent of active PSN users have credit cards associated with their accounts.

In a press release, Sony announced that they will force users to download a firmware update with enhanced security features. They will be rolling out the PlayStation Network’s features over a week-long period of time. The document confirms the following will be in the software package:

  • Restoration of Online game-play across the PlayStation®3 (PS3) and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) systems, including titles requiring online verification and downloaded games
  • Access to Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity for PS3/PSP for existing subscribers
  • Access to account management and password reset
  • Access to download un-expired Movie Rentals on PS3, PSP and MediaGo
  • PlayStationHome
  • Friends List
  • Chat Functionality
  • Added automated software monitoring and configuration management to help defend against new attacks
  • Enhanced levels of data protection and encryption
  • Enhanced ability to detect software intrusions within the network, unauthorized access and unusual activity patterns
  • Implementation of additional firewalls

Moving their data collection servers to a different location, Sony is hoping that they will be able to utilize an updated system of encryption to provide users with heightened security. Upon connecting to the Internet after the update, all users are required to change their passwords.

There are many scenarios in which companies are forced to approach extremely awkward situations and admit fault to its users, and it’s refreshing to see one do so promptly. On average, it takes companies 46 days to enhance security features on services that have been compromised. If PSN users are complaining about two weeks of unavailability, they should consider the fact that Sony has restructured the service to fix the issue in timely manner.

What do you, fellow online gamers, believe? Is this enough to keep you from capitalizing on the inevitable onslaught of lawsuits that will hit Sony in the coming months? Is the company reacting in an appropriate manner? Sound off in the comments below.