Sony: PlayStation Network is back online now, really

The company had suggested the online gaming service would be fully restored on Saturday, but that forecast proved to be too optimistic

After giving gamers false hope on Saturday, Sony now says its PlayStation Network has been fully restored after a Christmas Day attack that knocked it offline for about three days.

At around 1 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time on Sunday, Sony declared its online gaming platform fixed and, as it had done the day before, blamed the problems on a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

"PlayStation Network and some other gaming services were attacked over the holidays with artificially high levels of traffic designed to disrupt connectivity and online gameplay. This may have prevented your access to the network and its services over the last few days," wrote Catherine Jensen, Vice President of Consumer Experience at Sony Computer Entertainment America, in an update to a blog post she had published originally on Saturday.

The company jumped the gun early Saturday when it trumpeted that the PlayStation Network was gradually getting back to normal, announcing the good news at around 4 a.m. via its Ask PlayStation Twitter account and triumphantly changing the PlayStation Network status to "online" in the support website a few hours later.

But it soon became obvious that the problem was far from fixed yet when by early afternoon the status of the PlayStation Network had been changed to "offline" again, and the Ask PlayStation Twitter account updated to say that Sony engineers were again looking into reports that users were having sing-in problems.

At around 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jensen published the first version of her blog post, acknowledging for the first time that the PlayStation Network had been under attack, leading to the outage. "PSN engineers are working hard to restore full network access and online gameplay as quickly as possible," she wrote.

Jensen also apologized to the many disappointed gamers who received Sony consoles on Christmas. "If you received a PlayStation console over the holidays and have been unable to log onto the network, know that this problem is temporary and is not caused by your game console."

Still, a search for "Sony PSN" and "PlayStation" on Twitter on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. returned a substantial number of posts from disgruntled users who were still having problems signing into the gaming service.

Many customers are also questioning on social media the quality of the PlayStation Network's security. They're expressing disbelief that a tech company as large as Sony can be so vulnerable to a DDoS attack that triggers a days-long outage at the height of the holiday season and on such a high profile online service, right as millions of customers -- mostly children -- are unwrapping new gaming consoles.

Microsoft's Xbox Live also suffered a disruption on Christmas Day, but it was back up and running on Friday, although some individual applications are still down, according to the service's status page. Microsoft has acknowledged Xbox Live suffered a service disruption but hasn't disclosed the cause.

The Lizard Squad hacker group claimed responsibility on Christmas Day for the outages that hit PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, saying it had launched successful DDoS attacks against the two online gaming platforms.

However, on Friday the group said via its Twitter account that it had stopped the DDoS attacks and turned its attention to Tor, a service that lets users surf the web, post content online and engage in Internet communications anonymously.

"To clarify, we are no longer attacking PSN or Xbox. We are testing our new Tor 0day," Lizard Squad tweeted, a message it reiterated Saturday.

Late on Friday, Tor put out a statement confirming its service was under fire, and described the action as a "Sybil attack."

"The attackers have signed up many new relays in hopes of becoming a large fraction of the network. But even though they are running thousands of new relays, their relays currently make up less than 1% of the Tor network by capacity," Tor's statement reads.

Tor said it was working to remove the relays from its network, and that it didn't expect "any anonymity or performance effects" on its service, which so far doesn't seem to have been disrupted.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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