Right now, '80710a06' is hotter than Cheryl Cole and Wayne Rooney - if not quite as popular as Rebecca Black. This seemingly random collection of letters and numbers is one of the hottest search terms on the internet - sorry Cheryl - and the greatest source of frustration to gamers since, er, 8001050F - the last time PlayStation 3 (PS3) suffered a major network error, on that occasion related to its internal clock. What's going on? Who's to blame? When will you play PS3 online again? Read on to find out.
***UPDATED: New statement from Sony below, confirming that hackers *may* have accessed your personal information***
'80710a06' is the error message you receive when you try to sign into your PlayStation Network account (PSN) on your PS3, which has now been inactive since Weds 20th April - almost six days already. While you can still use your PS3 for offline gaming and watching Blu-rays, no-one can access the PSN store to buy games, rent videos or download DLC. Services such as LoveFilm and Qriocity are also off limits. Worst of all, it's now impossible to play games online, from Call of Duty: Black Ops to recent releases like Portal 2 and Mortal Kombat.
The big questions that need answering
Why has PSN gone down? Who's responsible? What are Sony doing about it? And, of course, when will you be able to use the PSN network again? We've got all the answers you need, if not the ones you want to hear.
Around 9pm UK time, Tues 26th April, Sony released a new statement confirming personal details may have been taken from PSN, potentially including credit card details. Full statement here, including Sony's recommendations for what you do next.
Who - or what - is responsible?
The common consensus - if not the truth - is that Sony were forced to shut down PSN due to the activity of a hacking group called Anonymous, who believe in the freedom of the internet and attack select companies believed to be limiting freedoms or acting too much like 'The Man'. For example, they famously orchestrated a series of digital attacks on the Church of Scientology, and more recently supported Wikileaks by attacking companies they perceived to be *against* Wikileaks, such as Mastercard.
A more detailed background on Anonymous and their (h)activities can be found here.
Why would they attack Sony and PSN?
This is a more complex, slightly boring story, but in short they're defending George Hotz. He made himself famous by hacking the iPhone (see a 17-year-old Hotz interviewed on US channel CNBC here and, most recently, PlayStation 3 - a console once considered 'unbreakable'. While Hotz claims piracy was not his intention, his 'jailbreak' hack opened up PS3 to the spread of pirated games and 'custom' firmware; allowing smart, dedicated hackers to get PS3 to do pretty much what they want (well, within the machine's capabilities, so no one's hacked a PS3 to do the dishes yet... as far as we know). Hacked PS3s run emulators of SNES and other vintage consoles, plus custom media players that run .mkv files - the web's preferred HD movie format.
While Hotz wasn't responsible for *all* the piracy (or indeed any of it), or the activity of other hacking groups, he was the 'jailbreak' figurehead, and by being so vocal and provocative (at one stage issuing this incredible rap video claiming Sony were 'fucking with the dude who got the keys to your safe' and claiming 'I'm a personification of freedom for all'; a video that's attracted over 1.7 million YouTube views), he brought down the full might of Sony's legal team, who seemed hell-bent on closing Hotz down. So intent, in fact, that at times Sony seemed to be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Bottom line: Hotz settled in court with Sony but Anonymous were unhappy with Sony's clamping down on freedoms, and moved to support Hotz.