It’s been over two weeks since Sony first shut down the PlayStation Network after detecting an external intrusion, and there is still no concrete sign of the system being turned back on any time soon. Many facts have become public since Sony pulled the plug to stop their customers’ personal information being distributed across the internet, and it would be fair to say that the company’s public image has taken a significant beating.

Now Sony is breaking their silence, and doing away with communicating with the affected parties solely through press releases. Sony CEO and President Howard Stringer has offered a formal apology on behalf of himself and the company, and announced that they will be offering US PSN account holders complimentary enrollment in ‘AllClear ID Plus,’ an identity theft protection program offered by Debix, Inc. Along with their own personal cyber-watchdog comes a $1 Million identity theft insurance policy to cover any expenses that may be incurred.

Nobody expected that the PSN outage would last over two weeks, but the fact of the matter is that it will simply take as long as it takes to get the new and improved PSN back up and running. While an address from the head of the company won’t do much to assuage the fears of those already weary of the impending threat of identity theft, or credit card fraud, Stringer’s open letter is as much an appeal to common sense as it is an apology.

In his letter posted to the PlayStation blog, Stringer sympathized with the customers, explaining that the frustration felt by the millions of PSN users is completely justified and a motivating factor for Sony to get the problems sorted out as quickly and cleanly as possible. Message boards across the internet have lit up with users lambasting Sony for their delayed response time, but according to Stringer, the company acted as any responsible company would.

Upon detecting an intrusion, Sony immediately shut down their network, and called in the professionals to find out just what had been exposed to hackers. Was their wording a bit more ambiguous than customers would have liked? Sure. But it certainly wouldn’t do any good to inform users that their credit card numbers had been exposed before Sony was absolutely positive that was the case. And as Stringer once again points out, their analysts still have no proof that credit card information was exposed.

To show their customers just how committed they are to doing everything they can to make things right with their customers, a free month of PlayStation Plus access to all subscribers is just the beginning. Another blog post reveals that in order to guarantee that no customer suffers identity or credit card theft as a result of the PSN breach, Sony is offering to foot the bill for entry into Debix, Inc.’s ‘AllClear ID Plus’ fraud protection service.

As “one of the industry’s most reputable identity protection firms,” Debix, Inc.’s security programs and on-call investigators will be provided free of charge to all US PSN and Qriocity account holders for a span of 12 months. E-mails informing customers of the offer will be sent out over the next few days, including a coupon code that can be redeemed through Debix, Inc.’s website until June 18.

Sony Free Million Insurance Policy

Along with your very own internet sleuth comes a $1 Million insurance policy per user, intended to cover all possible court fees, lost wages, and other costs incurred as a result of identity theft. While this should go a long way in letting US customers breathe a sigh of relief, PSN customers located outside of the United States will have to wait as Sony attempts to arrange similar coverage.

No word yet on whether additional coverage will be offered to the 900 users whose credit card numbers were accessed via SOE‘s database, but from Sony’s wording and response, we should expect an explanation within the next few days.

It’s going to be hard for those Sony-haters out there to argue that the company isn’t doing everything it can to make up for their customers’ information being broken into. It’s difficult to think that other websites or companies would go to such extensive lengths to put fears at ease, and cover the costs for all users.

It’s easy to vilify a large corporation, and imagine that Sony being hacked was a result of security protocols that were lacking or outdated. But in his apology, Stringer is careful to remind us all that all of this mess started because a group of criminals illegally entered their systems, and intentionally gained access to customer data. If you want to get mad at anyone, it’s a lot easier to blame the criminals who will gain from their intrusion than the company bending over backwards to make sure their users are protected.

Does Howard Stringer’s apology go a long way in letting bygones by bygones, or is it another case of Sony issuing a statement too long after the fact? Let us know your thought in the comments.

Source: PlayStation Blog

tags: PS3, PSN, Sony