By now, most PlayStation owners (be they PSP or PS3 players) will be well aware that the PlayStation Network (including online gaming, friends and the PlayStation Store) are offline. The observant will know that this happened at some point on Thursday last week, making the (now five-plus day) outage the most significant in living memory for any online gaming network.
So what's it all about?
Originally, the word going around was that this was the result of an attack - specifically, that e-Terrorist group "Anonymous" had taken PSN offline to protest about the treatment of George "Geohot" Hotz, who managed to finally break through Sony's seemingly bulletproof antipiracy measures on the PS3 and whom Sony recently settled with out of court.
Anonymous, however, have publicly stated that this attack is not related to them. Typically, Anonymous attacks have taken the form of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, where thousands of computers launch thousands of simultaneous requests for service from a server, overwhelming it and causing it to fail.
In a recent blog post, however, Sony stated that PSN was offline due to an intrusion - wording which would suggest that a more traditional hack (i.e. someone breaking through security and obtaining access to your network directly despite any protection you might have against such intrusion) has taken place.
So when's it coming back?
It's not clear - although another blog post seems to suggest that it could be some time, with Sony stating that "Our efforts to resolve this matter involve re-building our system to further strengthen our network infrastructure. Though this task is time-consuming, we decided it was worth the time necessary to provide the system with additional security."
Is my Credit Card data at risk?
A valid question - made all the more concerning, perhaps, as Sony have yet to state that this data is secure; something that they most likely would have, should they know that it is. That they're not saying anything specific suggests that it might well have been compromised.
UPDATE 12pm, 27 April: The deeper we dive into the rabbit hole, the weirder things get. The latest rumour is that Sony are indeed concerned about people ripping off credit cards - but not in the way you might have thought.
Instead of a hacker externally accessing the backend of the PlayStation Network
and stealing your credit card, 1up are reporting that what Sony might be most fearful of is people using hacked PlayStations to steal content from the PlayStation Store by using fake credit card details.
It's a complicated situation but, in a nutshell, the way it works is as follows: Sony has two networks - one public, which we all use, and another private one - just for developers. PlayStation hackers have found a way to circumvent Sony's recent methods of preventing them getting onto the public network by instead jumping onto the developer network and following various back door exploits from there.
Using this same back door, the hackers are also able to trick the PlayStation Network into believing a purchase has been legitimately completed via the Store with a real credit card, when in fact there has been no successful transaction, which triggers the Store to hand over the keys to any online-purchasable items that are currently available.
If true, this would indeed be a significant issue for Sony.
So that about wraps up the details we have at the moment - how do you feel about it? Should PlayStation owners be compensated as a result of the service being offline? Or is this a reasonable expectation for a service that people don't pay for in the first place (not including PSN+ users, who should reasonably expect compensation)?