Sony’s Playstation network experienced massive outages in North America over the weekend. The reason behind the interference was reportedly a DDOS attack (short for distributed denial-of-service), which is an attempt to make a computer network resource unavailable to the intended user. In 2014, the consistency of recognized DDOS attacks has reached an average of 28 per hour. Perpetrators of the attacks seem to mostly target sites or services hosted on high-profile web servers.
The source that took credit for the catastrophe is online hacker group The Lizard Squad, who also claim responsibility for server attacks on World of Warcraft, game developers Blizzard Entertainment and Riot Games. Users of the popular video game console Playstation were understandably shaken up, as players logged on to their account to go online and could not. In a statement released some hours after the shutdown on Sunday, Sony revealed that the company’s network was hit by an attempt to overwhelm it with “artificially high traffic.” The company then offered their apologies while they worked to restore network services.
At one point during the massive outage, Playstation network’s online service may have been the least of the company’s worries, as the flight that the company’s president was on that same day had to land early due to a bomb threat. The Lizard Squad allegedly sent out tweets to American Airlines saying that John Smedley’s flight, which was originally scheduled for San Diego, but immediately landed in Phoenix), was traveling with explosives. A bomb threat of any nature is a federal crime and has most likely attractrd the FBI’s attention. Michelle Mohr, an American Airlines spokeswoman, spoke to reporters to confirm that Flight 362 from Dallas/Fort Worth had to be diverted “due to security-related issues.” Although the explosives were never confirmed, airport security control took every precaution as if they were. It is still possible that the plane may have been diverted for another reason.
With the threat of explosives being neutralized and the company’s online president arriving safely on the ground, Sony can now shift its attention back to business. The social network of members, which number around 110 million or so, can take comfort in the fact that there has not been any personal data leaked in the attack. In April of 2011, the Playstation network was out of commission for over a month as the network suffered a large security breach that exposed hundreds of thousands of names, passwords, addresses, email addresses, birthdays and account information. In June of that same year, Sony launched a “Welcome Back” program following the disruption of over 70 million accounts, allowing all subscribers who joined prior to April 20 to download two free PlayStation 3 titles and two free PlayStation portable games. Members also received 30 free days of PlayStation Plus, while users who were already subscribed before the shutdown got 60 days for free.
When normal activity was eventually resumed on Sony’s network, it cost the company a reported $15 million dollars, which includes the settling of a class-action lawsuit. The Playstation network’s massive outage may have been part of a larger scheme, as the notorious hacker group recently hinted at targeting Microsoft’s Xbox Live servers. Only hours after Lizard Squads tweeted of their next attack, Microsoft reported on their status page that they were experiencing “limited” sign-in functionality on the XBox.
By Theodore Borders