After an "external intrusion" on the PlayStation Network, Sony shut down the service (along with Qriocity) late last Wednesday. There's no estimate being shared for its return. This we know. But while there's been some concern that hackers may have gained access to credit card information in the process of attacking PSN, it's reportedly Sony itself that fears being ripped off.
A user on reddit going by the name chesh420 who claims to be a moderator at website PSX-Scene has speculated upon the reasoning behind Sony taking PSN offline. What it comes down to is a recently-released custom firmware that allegedly allows users to bypass credit card validation, therefore allowing them to use fake card numbers to make PSN purchases.
The unedited post, in part, reads:
The truth is, there was a new CFW (custom firmware) released known as Rebug ([link removed]). It essentially turns a retail console into a dev console (not fully, but gives you a lot of the same options that usually dev's only have access to). Anyway, this new CFW was quickly figured out to give CFW users access to the PSN network again via the dev networks. With a little manipulation of the URL's through a proxy server you could get your hacked console back online. Not that big of a deal, right? Well, it also turns out that some people over at NGU found out that you could provide fake CC# info and the authenticity of the information was never checked as you were on Sony's private developer PSN network (essentially a network that Sony trusted). What happened next was extreme piracy of PSN content. Sony realizing the issue here shut down the network.
According to chesh, Sony is now trying to patch the issue. More importantly, despite fears that PSN users' credit card numbers may be compromised, there's been no indication that such a theft has taken place or that it would even be possible with the hack.
We can't confirm if any of this is accurate, but the time table offered up (Rebug became available on March 31) does make the explanation a possibility. Of course, it would be a real PR headache if legitimate gamers have been unable to access PSN for almost five full days because of an issue like this, not to mention the legitimate purchases developers have been missing out on as a result of the downtime.