6:39am UK, Wednesday April 27, 2011
The Japanese electronics giant Sony has admitted millions of Playstation network gamers may have had their personal details stolen.
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A hacker broke into the PlayStation video game online network and stole names, addresses and possibly credit card data belonging to 77 million people.
It is believed to be one of the biggest-ever internet security breaches of its kind.
Sony learned of the breach on April 19 and immediately shut down the PlayStation network, but kept quiet about for a whole week.
In a statement the company said an "illegal and unauthorized person" obtained people's names, addresses, email address, birthdates, usernames, passwords, logins, security questions and more.
The shutdown of the PlayStation network prevented owners of the video game console from buying and downloading games as well as playing with rivals over the internet.
The breach is a major setback for Sony. Although video game hardware and software sales have declined globally, the PlayStation franchise has been a steady seller and is one of its key products.
Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter
This is a huge data breach. The bigger issue with Sony is how will the hacker use the info that has been illegally obtained?
The company said there was no evidence credit card numbers were stolen but warned users it could not rule out the possibility.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained," it said.
Analysts said while Sony has notified its customers of the break-in, it still has not provided information on how users' data may have been compromised.
"This is a huge data breach," said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. "The bigger issue with Sony is how will the hacker use the info that has been illegally obtained?"
Sony, which is part of Sony Corp, said it hoped to restore some of the PlayStation network's services within a week.
The network launched in Autumn 2006 and offers games, music and movies to people with PlayStation consoles. It has 77 million registered users.