The entire tech-aware world is obviously focused on the PSN fiasco, with consumers asking that age-old scandal double-question: What did Sony know and when did they know it? But I’ve got different queries: When the PlayStation Network is finally repaired and functional, how will we access our online identities? What kind of hoops will consumers have to jump through to safely and securely reclaim their PSN accounts? Will we still have our trophies, friends list, DLC and the rest of our online, PSN identity?
Had Sony taken the network down for “regular” maintenance, they could just put things up as they were when the system went down, but the compromising of users’ personal information puts Sony into a very different, and very delicate, situation, that likely doesn't have a simple solution. Sony, as yet, aren't saying how they plan to reunite gamers with their online profiles, but below are some ideas on how it might work.
If Sony put the system back online suddenly, the person or people who presumably hold your login info and password could simply hijack as many accounts as they wanted, as soon as the "on" switch is flipped, so that solution is unlikely.
“But what about my security question? Couldn’t I use that to reconnect to my account?” you might ask. No. Whoever has your password information also has access to your security answer.
Alternatively, Sony could send users an email that requires them to reset their password, but again, the presumed PSN information thief has access to your email account as well as your PSN, and, in spite of many, many exhortations to change all passwords, many people use the same password for their email as their PSN login, meaning, potentially, another way to hijack your PSN login. This is seems to me to be the path that Sony will take to get things moving again, though. They’ve already suggested all their users change passwords on their email and other accounts.
Will Your PSN Profile Be Wiped Clean?
There is also the potential that your account will be wiped clean, totally. This scenario seems to me to be the most “secure” way to protect customers, but it’s unlikely, as it would cause unimaginable devastation to Sony’s bottom line and incredible hassle to the PSN’s millions of customers.
If Sony cleared out the PSN and started from the beginning, not only would they likely lose a huge percentage of users and/or paying customers, but trying to sort out and reconnect users to the digital downloads they’ve already purchased would be unimaginably complicated, perhaps impossible, without, of course reconnecting to your account...and that's not to mention friends’ lists, trophies, purchased games, PlayStation Home content and more.
As headache-inducing as the physical, technical repair of the PlayStation Network will be, Sony's real problem will be in repairing the spirit of the PlayStation Network. A breach of privacy and service this huge will take a lot of good-will and likely a lot of time to fix.