At a refreshingly personal press briefing in Tokyo this morning, Hirai said that Sony had "learned" its lesson, before detailing a number of plans aimed at trying to win back consumer confidence.
Perhaps most importantly, Hirai said that the PlayStation Network will be partially back online by next week. While an exact date wasn't confirmed, we're assuming it will be mid-week based on previous statements released by SCE. Put your bets on Wednesday if you're feeling lucky.
The partial return of the service will include all major functions including online gaming, PlayStation Home, messaging and more. Unfortunately, the PlayStation Store will remain offline while Sony continues to ensure its security is of the very highest level. Hirai promised that the PlayStation Store will return at some point in May. We're hoping for the sake of developers that it's back online at the start of the month rather than the end. Plus, it would be nice to download some games at some point.
PlayStation Network users will need to install a new firmware update when the service returns. This will require users to change their PlayStation Network password. Sony's adding in an additional layer of precautionary security by only allowing users to change their password on the same PS3 as the account was activated, or through a validated email. Sony says this is "a critical step to help further protect customer data".
Speaking of which, Hirai detailed the additional measures Sony has gone to in order to ensure the PlayStation Network is a more secure environment going forward. Aside from moving the physical location of the service's data centre, Sony has also implemented new automated software to monitor activity for attacks, as well as install new encryption and firewall precautions. Sony has also created a new position in the company, Chief Information Security Officer, who will report directly to Shinji Hasejima, Chief Information Officer of Sony Corporation. According to Sony, the new role will "add a new position of expertise in and accountability for customer data protection and supplement existing information security personnel". Hirai also said that Sony had improved technology to detect intrusions, unauthorized access and unusual activity patterns.
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, said Hirai. 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's "Welcome Back" customer appreciation plan is pretty robust, and actually a lot more than we were expecting. Hirai detailed plans to reward all PlayStation Network users with a complimentary 30 day subscription to PlayStation Plus (current subscribers will have their current plan extended by the same time-frame). Similarly, Qriocity subscribers will have their plan extended by 30 days. Hirai also promised that each territory will be offering "selected PlayStation entertainment content for free download," with more details to follow. That's a bucket full of goodwill right there.
Sony also detailed plans to help customers protect their personal data, with complimentary identity theft protection services. The company promised more details on this soon, though Hirai was keen to reiterate that there was still "no evidence" of any credit card data theft.
While some customers will still feel angry at Sony regarding this whole situation, we really don't think Hirai could have said any more to win people back this morning. That Hirai apologised (with a bow no less) and admitted the company had "learned" its lesson goes a long way as far as we're concerned. The scope of the compensation scheme has also stunned us a little — we were expecting little more than a complimentary copy of Fat Princess or another SCE published property. For Sony to pledge identity theft protection, content and complimentary PlayStation Plus subscriptions prvoves that the company respects the severity of the situation and values its customers. Which is what most people wanted evidence of all along.
We're sure this story is going to have some legs yet, but credit where credit's due, SCE has done it's very best to make good on a bad situation here. Here's hoping we can start to move on from this.