Sony resuming PlayStation Network, Qriocity services

North America, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand first; Japan and Asia later

Sony will begin a phased resumption of its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services on Sunday, more than three weeks after a cyber attack that resulted in the loss of personal information on more than 100 million customers.

The two services will initially be available for users in North America (where the service could resume late Saturday), Europe, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. Service in Japan and Asia will return at a later time yet to be announced.

First services to return will be online gaming, playback of already rented video, "Music Unlimited" online audio streaming, access to third-party services like Netflix and Hulu, PlayStation Home and friends features such as chat. Full service is expected to resume by the end of May.

PlayStation users will be prompted to download a software update when they first connect to the network. The version 3.61 update will ask users to change their password. Once changed, users will be able to sign in to their accounts.

The login password for each account was among the data stolen when an unknown hacker or hackers attacked Sony's San Diego data center on April 19. Other information leaked included the names and addresses for registered PlayStation Network and Qriocity users, along with their birth dates, e-mail addresses and other personal information.

Later, Sony discovered a similar attack on its Sony Online Entertainment network, which serves PC users. That service will also resume worldwide on Sunday.

The entire attack netted personal information on more than 100 million users making it one of the largest ever known leaks of consumer data.

Sony has spent much of the past three weeks analyzing the hack and rebuilding its network to better guard against future attacks.

The upgrades have brought "considerable enhancements to the data security, including updating and adding advanced security technologies, additional software monitoring and penetration and vulnerability testing, and increased levels of encryption and additional firewalls," Sony said in a statement. It has also added software to provide an early warning of system activity that could indicate an attack has taken place.

Throughout the period the PlayStation Network has remained offline, depriving console owners of the ability to play online.

"I can't thank you enough for your patience and support during this time," said Kaz Hirai, executive deputy president of Sony and head of its gaming division, in a statement. "We know even the most loyal customers have been frustrated by this process and are anxious to use their Sony products and services again. We are taking aggressive action at all levels to address the concerns that were raised by this incident, and are making consumer data protection a full-time, company wide commitment."

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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