PlayStation Network Security Breach: A Survival Guide

Sony has quite the security nightmare on its hands with its giant PlayStation Network disaster.

Sony finally admitted Tuesday that account details, logins and online IDs for registered Sony PlayStation Network users, as many as 77 million people, have been compromised. The information was stolen sometime between April 17 and 19, according to a Sony blog post, as early as nine days before Sony notified its users of the breach. Even worse, the company says it can't be sure whether credit card information was stolen.

[Read our Game On blogger's take: Sony's PlayStation Network Disaster: What Happens Next?]

The admission came nearly a week after Sony pulled the plug on PSN and its Qriocity music service, blaming the outage on an "external intrusion" into Sony's network. Sony says that it is rebuilding the PSN and Qriocity server system with improved security. Both services are expected to be operational within the next week.

The fact that it took the company almost 10 days to figure out and then admit that user data had been stolen is troubling to say the least.

[Read: PlayStation Hack Timeline]

If you're a registered PSN user, the implications for you and your online information is quite serious. Here's what you need to know:

What The Bad Guys Know About You

Sony said the following user information was compromised: your name, address (city, state, zip), country, e-mail address, birth date, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID.

It's also possible, according to Sony, that hackers obtained your PSN purchase history, billing address (city, state, zip), and password security answers.

If that wasn't bad enough, it's also possible your credit card information was stolen, including your card number and expiration date. "While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken," Sony said, "we cannot rule out the possibility." Your credit card's security code (typically a three-digit number on the back of your card) was not compromised, according to Sony.

Your Kids' Account Is Compromised, Too

Sony also warns that if you have a sub-account for a minor attached to your PSN credentials, that account is probably toast as well.

What to Do

There are several measures you should take to ensure the integrity of your data. First, considering how long it took Sony to warn its users, it's probably best to assume that all of your information needs to be changed as soon as possible. This isn't meant as a scare tactic, but the fact that hackers may have obtained your PSN data nearly 10 days ago means they have a huge head start on using that data for malicious purposes.

Sony is also warning users to be wary of people calling or e-mailing you for extra information such as your Social Security number or other personal information. Sony says it will never call you asking you to verify your information. You should also be wary of people claiming to be from other companies or services looking to verify your personal data.

Watch Those Credit Cards

Next, you'll want to decide what measures you want to take to secure your credit card information. You can either monitor your card for suspicious activity, or, if you can manage without your card for a few days, you may want to consider canceling it and getting a new one.

Sony also advises that you may want to place a fraud alert on your credit record with the three major U.S. credit bureaus. This will make it harder for someone to open a new credit card in your name (remember they may have your name, billing address and birth date). To find out how to contact the credit bureaus see Sony's blog post.

Also, check out the Federal Trade Commission's website for advice on what to do if you've been hit by identity theft.

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