Hackers shut Sony down for six days

Sony is continuing to pay the price for removing Linux from the PS3.

Hackers have kept Sony’s lucrative PlayStation Network offline for a fifth day and Sony seems unable to stop them.

The PlayStation Network is the internet-based retail service that allows users of its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable devices to buy games, films, music and game add-ons, and to chat with one another.

It was offline on Wednesday after what Sony called an “external intrusion”. We guess it was being rude. We would call anyone who hacked TechEye an external intrusion although we would imply that it was the sort of external intrustion that was very small and would probably get laughed at if it was shown to the opposite sex.

Patrick Seybold, senior director of corporate communications, made a public statement that Sony planned “a thorough investigation … to verify the smooth and secure operation of its network services”.

However on Monday he was starting to run out of ideas. He warned that fixing the network was a time intensive process and Sony was working to get the servers back online quickly.

Clearly this was not a matter of switching them off and switching them on again.

The root cause of Sony’s problems is that it removed the “Other OS” option from all PS3 consoles in March last year, which meant users could no longer choose to install and run the Linux operating system.

To get around this problem 21-year-old George Hotz published a root key for the PS3 that meant any content, such as films and music, could be played on a jailbroken device.

Sony took him to court and while it “won” it caused a lot of bad blood with its legal antics. A post on the Anonymous blog on 4 April said the action against Hotz and fellow hacker Graf_Chokolo was “wholly unforgivable”.

However Anonymous said that it is not behind shutting down the network and Sony will have to look for a new scapegoat.

What it is proving for Sony is that its PS3 network cannot deal with hacking and so far everything that has happened to the Playstation this year has been bad news related to security.

Trying to pick a fight with hackers appears to have resulted in the outfit becoming a target, and so far Sony has been unable to find a way to stop the attacks. Faced with a choice of a network that does not work, and the fact that Sony seems unable to make its system secure enough, people  might start to vote with their feet.