News of what Sony plans to do to make things right for PlayStation Network customers in the wake of a massive data breach and service failure emerged late Saturday night from a press conference taking place Sunday morning in Japan.

I don’t do a lot of straight gaming-news posts on my blog here, largely because the big sites devoted solely to gaming tend to stay on top of the big stories pretty well. However, there’s one nugget of information from Sony’s news conference and press release that I think is overlooked in the vast majority of coverage. Namely, Sony appears to be ready to provide assistance to its customers in monitoring for identity theft.

From the news release sent out Saturday night:

While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, the company is committed to helping its customers protect their personal data and will provide a complimentary offering to assist users in enrolling in identity theft protection services and/or similar programs.  The implementation will be at a local level and further details will be made available shortly in each region.

To me, and likely any PlayStation Network customer who happens to be a responsible adult and not a kid using someone else’s credit card, this is the single biggest item in Sony’s apology. Why the vast majority of gaming outlets are choosing to focus on some promises of free, downloadable games or 30 days of PlayStation Plus is a little mystery. A handful of digital trinkets aren’t nearly as important to me as the peace of mind credit monitoring that I’m not expected to pay for is.

The potential for us PlayStation Network customers to have our actual credit card numbers stolen may be relatively small, if what Sony is saying is true. But, at a minimum, our names, addresses, e-mail addresses, PSN passwords, birthdates and other info may have been stolen. In other words, we could be vulnerable to phishing scams, attempted address changes via social engineering and other chicanery for years to come. Knowing that I have some help in preventing this from the company that screwed up in the first place will provide some peace of mind.

Of course, with the exact details to be hashed out and disclosed by region, apparently, we still don’t know what we’ll be getting. It could be a fantastic concession, or leave us PSN customers wanting more help. But I felt it was worth pointing out to gamers worried about ruined credit scores who didn’t see coverage of this little nugget in some of the more mainstream gaming publications.

You can read Sony’s full news release below:

Some PlayStation®Network and Qriocity™ Services to be Available This Week

Phased Global Rollout of Services to Begin Regionally; System Security Enhanced to Provide Greater Protection of Personal Information

TOKYO, May 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and Sony Network Entertainment International (SNEI, the company) announced they will shortly begin a phased restoration by region of PlayStation®Network and Qriocity services, beginning with gaming, music and video services to be turned on.  The company also announced both a series of immediate steps to enhance security across the network and a new customer appreciation program to thank its customers for their patience and loyalty.

Following a criminal cyber-attack on the company’s data-center located in San Diego, California, U.S.A., SNEI quickly turned off the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services, engaged multiple expert information security firms over the course of several days and conducted an extensive audit of the system.  Since then, the company has implemented a variety of new security measures to provide greater protection of personal information. SNEI and its third-party experts have conducted extensive tests to verify the security strength of the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services. With these measures in place, SCE and SNEI plan to start a phased rollout by region of the services shortly. The initial phase of the rollout will include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Restoration of Online game-play across the PlayStation®3 (PS3) and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) systems
    • This includes titles requiring online verification and downloaded games
  • Access to Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity for PS3/PSP for existing subscribers
  • Access to account management and password reset
  • Access to download un-expired Movie Rentals on PS3, PSP and MediaGo
  • PlayStation®Home
  • Friends List
  • Chat Functionality

Working closely with several outside security firms, the company has implemented significant security measures to further detect unauthorized activity and provide consumers with greater protection of their personal information. The company is also creating the position of Chief Information Security Officer, directly reporting to Shinji Hasejima, Chief Information Officer of Sony Corporation, to add a new position of expertise in and accountability for customer data protection and supplement existing information security personnel. The new security measures implemented include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Added automated software monitoring and configuration management to help defend against new attacks
  • Enhanced levels of data protection and encryption
  • Enhanced ability to detect software intrusions within the network, unauthorized access and unusual activity patterns
  • Implementation of additional firewalls

The company also expedited an already planned move of the system to a new data center in a different location that has been under construction and development for several months.  In addition, PS3 will have a forced system software update that will require all registered PlayStation Network users to change their account passwords before being able to sign into the service.  As an added layer of security, that password can only be changed on the same PS3 in which that account was activated, or through validated email confirmation, a critical step to help further protect customer data.The company is conducting a thorough and on-going investigation and working with law enforcement to track down and prosecute those responsible for the illegal intrusion.

“This criminal act against our network had a significant impact not only on our consumers, but our entire industry.  These illegal attacks obviously highlight the widespread problem with cyber-security.  We take the security of our consumers’ information very seriously and are committed to helping our consumers protect their personal data.  In addition, the organization has worked around the clock to bring these services back online, and are doing so only after we had verified increased levels of security across our networks,” said Kazuo Hirai, Executive Deputy President, Sony Corporation.  “Our global audience of PlayStation Network and Qriocity consumers was disrupted.  We have learned lessons along the way about the valued relationship with our consumers, and to that end, we will be launching a customer appreciation program for registered consumers as a way of expressing our gratitude for their loyalty during this network downtime, as we work even harder to restore and regain their trust in us and our services.”

Complimentary Offering and “Welcome Back” Appreciation Program

While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, the company is committed to helping its customers protect their personal data and will provide a complimentary offering to assist users in enrolling in identity theft protection services and/or similar programs.  The implementation will be at a local level and further details will be made available shortly in each region.

The company will also rollout the PlayStation Network and Qriocity “Welcome Back” program, to be offered worldwide, which will be tailored to specific markets to provide our consumers with a selection of service options and premium content as an expression of the company’s appreciation for their patience, support and continued loyalty.

Central components of the “Welcome Back” program will include:

  • Each territory will be offering selected PlayStation entertainment content for free download.  Specific details of this content will be announced in each region soon.
  • All existing PlayStation Network customers will be provided with 30 days free membership in the PlayStation Plus premium service. Current members of PlayStation Plus will receive 30 days free service.
  • Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity subscribers (in countries where the service is available) will receive 30 days free service.

Additional “Welcome Back” entertainment and service offerings will be rolled out over the coming weeks as the company returns the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services to the quality standard users have grown to enjoy and strive to exceed those exceptions.SNEI will continue to reinforce and verify security for transactions before resuming the PlayStation®Store and other Qriocity operations, scheduled for this month.

For more information about the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services intrusion and restoration, please visit http://blog.us.playstation.com or http://blog.eu.playstation.com/.