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U.S. attorney general launches probe into Sony data breach

May 4, 2011 |  1:01 pm

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The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the security breach at Sony Corp., in which two separate attacks over the last month shut down Sony's PlayStation Network and an online-gaming unit.

"We have open investigations with regard to those hacking situations that have gotten publicity over the last few weeks, the Sony incident among them," U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Federal prosecutors in San Diego are working with FBI agents to look into the alleged hacking crimes, the news agency said.

Also Wednesday, Sony responded to a congressional committee inquiry into the network attacks.

The company "has been the victim of a very carefully planned, very professional, highly sophisticated criminal cyberattack designed to steal personal and credit card information for illegal purposes," Kaz Hirai, Sony's executive deputy president, wrote in the letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee's panel on commerce, manufacturing and trade.

In the letter, Hirai said the company learned of the first breach on April 19 and shut down the PlayStation Network the following day. The company informed account holders that their personal data was potentially exposed about a week later.

"Throughout this challenging period, [employees] acted carefully and cautiously and strove to provide correct and accurate information while balancing concerns for our consumers' privacy and need for information," the letter said.

The attack on Sony's PlayStation Network and Qriocity music-streaming service compromised the personal information of 77 million customers accounts. On Sunday, the company suspended service for Sony Online Entertainment, best known for creating online multi-player games such as EverQuest and The Matrix Online, after an intrusion exposed personal data for about 24.6 million subscribers.

Sony apologized Saturday and announced several "welcome back" freebies for PlayStation customers, including 30 days of free access to Qriocity for affected customers as well as 30 days of access to the PlayStation Plus online game service. The company will also provide credit card protection services to relevant customers, Hirai said.

New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman on Wednesday subpoenaed three Sony divisions -- Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony Network Entertainment and Sony Online Entertainment -- for documents regarding their security, CNBC reported

Consumers have filed at least two lawsuits in California against Sony and are seeking federal class-action status.

RELATED:

Sony says hacker may have stolen information from 24.6 million additional accounts

Sony online gaming unit shut down in second attack

Sony apologizes, says 10 million credit card accounts may have been exposed in network attack

-- Shan Li

Photo: Shot of Sony's EverQuest 2, one of the games created by Sony Online Entertainment. Credit: Sony Online Entertainment

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