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PSN downtime continues as Sony crisis grows

Service should be fully operational by May 31; new website breach discovered as SCEE discusses cover and free gifts

Despite indications that a limited service would resume within a week the PlayStation Network remains down, as a new security breach is discovered and user information is posted online.

The latest comments from Sony suggest that PSN will be fully operational by May 31, having failed to get any online functions working publicly since it was taken offline last month.

But while Sony is working on getting the network operational again, the company is dealing with the posting of data from 2,500 sweepstake contestants on an affiliated website.

The sweepstake was originally run in 2001, and may represent a third attack on the company - as predicted by online chatter on Friday. It is unclear whether the same group of hackers is involved, but Sony insists that information does not include credit card data, passwords, or social security numbers - but does include names and addresses.

"The website was out of date and inactive when discovered as part of the continued attacks on Sony," said the company to news agency Reuters.

The identity of the hackers, and whether they are the same group in each instance, remains unknown. However, following Sony's revelation that data relating to activist group Anonymous was found on their servers, two veterans of the group have said that other members are likely to have been behind the attacks.

"If you say you are Anonymous, and do something as Anonymous, then Anonymous did it," said 'Kayla' to the Financial Times. "Just because the rest of Anonymous might not agree with it, doesn't mean Anonymous didn't do it."

"Of course, the ones behind Operation Sony started denying everything when FBI and Homeland security was put on the case... because they were afraid they were going to get caught... A few operators disappeared," said another Anonymous member.

Officially Anonymous has denied any involvement in the security breach, having announced prior to the attack that it was no longer targeting Sony.

The most recent PlayStation blog updates indicates only that Sony has "begun the process of restoring the service through internal testing of the new system." Although the post by SCEE head of communications Nick Caplin acknowledges the additional delay he insists that, "our utmost priorities are the security of the network and ensuring your data is safe".

Caplin has also commented on the availability of identify theft protection in Europe, which has already been offered in America. "Creating a similar offering for the many countries within the SCEE region is a very complicated process. Each country has a different way of handling identity theft; some offer relatively sophisticated services whilst others are much more modest," said Caplin.

"We are currently in the process of identifying how we manage this situation and once the programme is ready to launch, we will provide details of exactly which services are available in each country and explain how to sign up. We hope to do this early next week," he added.

Caplin also promised more details of the European Welcome Back program, which will offer two free PlayStation 3 games from a list of five, as well as two free PSP titles from a list of four.

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