Sony gets inquiry from Congressional subcommittee

The PlayStation Network data theft already attracted the attention of one lawmaker, but now a Congressional subcommittee has entered the fray. The New York Times reports that a letter written by Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, questions Sony's knowledge of the data theft and requests a reply by Friday, May 6.

The letter is addressed directly to Sony Executive Deputy President Kazuo Hirai, and asks 13 pointed questions. They include when and how Sony learned about the breach, when law enforcement was notified, how Sony ascertained the number of users affected, why Sony waited to inform users, why the company believes credit card information was not compromised, and what preventive steps are being taken in the future. You can read the letter here (opens as PDF).

For its part, Sony has already addressed some of those questions, issuing a clarification last week. Credit cards seem to be the biggest uncertainty, as Sony has been vague on whether that information was taken.

A rumor circulated last week that a group of hackers was selling up to 2.2 million credit cards through underground message boards, and one hacker even claimed they offered to sell the list back to Sony. The discussion threads regarding selling the numbers openly were verified by multiple security experts, but there was no way to confirm if the list was legitimate. Sony's Patrick Seybold said there was "no truth" to the rumor that Sony had been directly offered to buy them, and he reiterated this point in a new security update today.

Congressional subcommittees are only one legal struggle the company faces, as it's already seeing a class-action suit over the breach. Meanwhile, despite assurances that the Sony Online Entertainment servers were kept separate from the PlayStation Network databases, the company pulled SOE service today. In a statement, the company said it "discovered an issue" with SOE while investigating the PSN breach. An update is expected later today.

In happier news, the company is planning to relaunch at least some PlayStation Network services this week, and has outlined a "Welcome Back" program for customers.