By Marcus Leach

The perils of the internet, and risk of identity theft, have once again been exposed as Sony confirmed that their PlayStation Network was hacked last week.

The network, which provides users with online video gaming services, as well as live streaming of films and music videos, has around three million British users.

Sony confirmed they will be contacting over 70 million users after they said information including names, addresses, dates of birth, passwords and security questions and answers of users were stolen after their system was hacked.

As if that news was not bad enough Sony also had to admit that they could not rule out the possibility that credit card data had been stolen too.

Given the variety, and quantity, of information stolen concerns over identity theft have been raised, especially given that many people use the same passwords for a variety of online services.

The news will be highly embarrassing for Sony, a world leader in the technology field, as they look to maintain their status among the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. However, they will do well to maintain consumer confidence after such a security breach.

Though it is by no means uncommon for user data to be stolen by hackers, this is one of the largest and most high profile online data thefts to come to light.

One of the biggest questions Sony must answer centres around how long they had known about the breach of security, and why it took them so long to issue a statement.

Sony said that it had “no evidence” that credit card data had been obtained but was warning people “out of an abundance of caution”.

“People should keep a closer eye than usual on their bank and credit card accounts,” Rik Ferguson, a senior adviser at the computer security firm Trend Micro, said.

The Sony PlayStation Network was taken offline over a week ago, as soon as the security breach had been noticed.

“Our efforts to resolve this matter involve re-building our system to further strengthen our network infrastructure," a company statement said.

“Though this task is time-consuming, we decided it was worth the time necessary to provide the system with additional security.”

Despite discovering the security breach last week Sony only issued a statement on Tuesday of this week.

Sony “discovered that between April 17 and April 19, 2011, certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network."

Sony has warned users to be aware of possible fraudulent emails, telephone calls and letters asking for further personal information. The company advised users to change their PlayStation Network passwords as soon as the service is restored but did not say when that would be.