Sony has warned its 77 million online PlayStation customers that their names, addresses - and possibly their credit card data - may have been stolen by hackers.

The electronics company said it saw no evidence that credit card numbers were stolen, but warned users to look out for identity theft and check their bank statements.

It is not known how many Irish people may have been affected by the hacking incident, as Sony does not release Irish figures.

Sony has advised customers to keep an eye on its Facebook page and official website for updates.

Sony said it learned of the breach in its popular PlayStation Network on 19 April, prompting it to shut down the network immediately.

Sony did not tell the public about the stolen data until yesterday, hours after it launched its new tablet computers in Japan.

An 'illegal and unauthorised person' obtained names, addresses, email addresses, birth dates, usernames, passwords, logins, security questions and more, Sony said on its US PlayStation blog yesterday.

A Sony spokesman said it took 'several days of forensic investigation' after learning of the breach before the company knew consumers' data had been compromised.

The news sparked fury among users.

'If you have compromised my credit information, you will never receive it again,' read one message on the PlayStation Network blog from a user under the name Korbei83.

'The fact that you've waited this long to divulge this information to your customers is deplorable. Shame on you.'

The shutdown of the PlayStation Network prevented owners of Sony's video game console from buying and downloading games, as well as playing with rivals over the Internet.

Sony said it could restore some of the network's services within a week.