Sony takes down PlayStation Network after URL error

A Web programming glitch could lead to account takeover

Nothing comes easy to Sony these days. The company was forced to take part of its Sony PlayStation Network offline briefly on Wednesday as it fixed a Web glitch that gave hackers a way to take over users' accounts.

Sony was hacked last month, and since Saturday had been bringing its PlayStation Network (PSN), Sony Online Entertainment network and Qriocity sites back online. To lock down the networks' security, Sony has been asking users to reset their passwords, but now a Web programming error has ground that process to a halt.

According to a discussion forum posting by Sony, the company has turned off its sign-in feature for PlayStation.com, Qriocity, PlayStation blogs, forums and gaming websites as well as Music Unlimited on the Web.

Midday Wednesday the company gave a vague description of what had happened.

"We temporarily took down the PSN and Qriocity password reset page," Sony spokesman Patrick Seybold said in a posting to its PlayStation blog. "In the process of resetting of passwords there was a URL exploit that we have subsequently fixed." Contrary to some reports, the site had not been hacked, Seybold said.

Sony didn't say exactly what it meant by "URL exploit," but according to the gaming blog Nyleveia, Sony's password reset page was configured so that anyone who knew their victim's e-mail address and birth date could take over that account.

Seybold said this was due to a "vulnerability in the password reset form," but did not publish details of how the password reset could be done.

"Consumers who haven't reset their passwords for PSN are still encouraged to do so directly on their PS3," Seybold wrote. "Otherwise, they can continue to do so via the website as soon as we bring that site back up."

About 77 million gamers use the PSN.

Another of Sony's networks, the Sony Online Entertainment network, is apparently unaffected by the problem. It continued to operate online Wednesday.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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