Over the weekend the PlayStation Network, Microsoft’s Xbox Live, Blizzard’s Battle.net, and Grinding Gears Games reported massive network disruptions caused by large scale distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. These attacks occurred around the same time that a bomb threat was made against an American Airlines plane carrying John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment.
Video game networks are commonly targeted by hacker groups looking for fame and recognition using DDoS because they are easy to disrupt and cater to younger audiences who go to social media to air grievances. Gaming networks themselves are publicly available, often already have an already high volume of traffic, and therefore have trouble handling massive spikes of traffic generated by DDoS.
The PSN service attacks appear to be perpetrated by a hacker who goes by the Twitter moniker @Famedgod and another group known as @LizardSquad. Both users have claimed credit for attacks, with FamedGod locking horns with LizardSquad over credit for the weekend’s PSN outage. FamedGod claims to have taken down the PSN network to highlight security issues still persistent in the network even after the 2011 outage (mentioned below.)
None of the networks affected have reported hacking or loss of customer information, only disruptions due to denial of service attacks.
In the past DDoS attacks have been used by groups such as LulzSec and DerpTrolling in order to increase notoriety and recognition. Both LulzSec and DerpTrolling targeted gaming networks, and most notably during the reign 2011 of LulzSec, the PlayStation Network suffered a massive outage triggered by a successful hacking attempt that ended with the service being offline for almost a month.
Modern DDoS attacks can be generated using massive botnets that exploit well known or new amplification techniques. In the case of DerpTrolling, an exploit in the Network Time Protocol (NTP) allowed a smaller botnet to wreak greater havoc.
In this current storm of DDoS attacks numerous separate networks have been hit with spike traffic causing disruptions and outages. The PlayStation Network suffered an outage over the weekend but has since been restored. The Xbox LIVE network skipped its regular maintenance today, Monday, August 25 due to the disruptions over the weekend. Blizzard’s Battle.net service reported disruption as well, the service supports the World of Warcraft and Starcraft titles.
Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley’s plane diverted
During the DDoS attacks an American Airlines plane inbound to San Diego, CA was diverted to Phoenix, AZ after a bomb threat. It is known that CEO of Sony Online Entertainment, John Smedley, was on board. Game Informer broke the story with tweets from John Smedley.
The hacker group known as @LizardSquad tweeted about the bomb threat (amidst taking credit for the PSN outages.)
@AmericanAir We have been receiving reports that @j_smedley‘s plane #362 from DFW to SAN has explosives on-board, please look into this.
Shortly after news of the diverted plane broke, Smedley tweeted that he was alright and everything was fine.
The FBI is now looking into the situation.