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Sony has entered the final stages of internal testing to bring its beleaguered online gaming network, the Playstation Network (PSN), back online after a massive hacker intrusion forced the company to bring it down.

Sony brought the network down last month after hackers broke in and stole sensitive information about more than 100 million PSN and Station.com users. The network has been offline since then, with no additional details about when the site would come back up. This is the first indication about when the online network might finally be back online for the PSN’s 77 million registered users.

“We understand that many of you are eager to again enjoy the PlayStation Network and Qriocity entertainment services that you love, so we wanted you to be aware of this milestone and our progress,” Sony spokesperson Patrick Seybold wrote in a blog post. “We will provide additional updates as soon as we can.”

The whole ordeal has been a huge black eye for Sony. The company brought the network down right when two blockbuster titles came out — Portal 2 and Mortal Kombat. Both involved a lot of online content, including co-operative and competitive play. Sony held a press conference where the company’s top executives — including Kaz Hirai (pictured above) — apologized to users and gamers everywhere for more than an hour and a half, but it still might not have been enough for the gaming company that has to face off against other major gaming companies whose networks are still alive and kicking.

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Purdue University security expert Dr. Gene Spafford told Congress that security experts knew Sony was running outdated versions of the Apache Web server software that did not have a firewall installed. Sony said hackers were able to breach the PSN and steal sensitive data while the company was fending off denial of service attacks from Anonymous, an online hacker group that typically takes up politically charged causes.

Sony laid indirect blame for the intrusion and PSN outage on Anonymous yesterday, saying Anonymous’s denial of service attack left Sony with its doors open for other hackers to come in and steal sensitive information. The hacker group said today it is not responsible for the theft of sensitive information and credit card data from Sony’s PSN.

The PlayStation Network is a critical service that competes with Microsoft’s Xbox Live online gaming service — as well as other online gaming services. There are also 948 games now available in the PlayStation Network store, as well as 4,000 pieces of add-on content for games. You can find a timeline for the Playstation Network outage and credit card information theft scandal here, courtesy of VentureBeat’s gaming guru Dean Takahashi.

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