Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) is back online as of Monday after being crippled by a cyber-attack over the weekend. A Twitter user called Lizard Squad openly gloated about the attack, and even tweeted a bomb scare at an American Airlines flight carrying a top Sony executive. Though this weekend’s events were particularly bizarre, this isn’t the first time hackers have overwhelmed Sony’s defenses.
The PlayStation Network is what allows people to play games against each other online - someone flooded it with artificially high traffic and overwhelmed it. Sony says the personal information of its millions of PSN users was not compromised during this weekend’s attack, known as a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attack.
It’s kind of like “you and I and 20 of our best friends all calling the pizza joint, every second. So nobody can ever call and order a pizza,” says Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor with the data protection firm Sophos.
Lizard Squad, which has been referred to as a hacker/vandal collective, implied it was trying to pressure Sony into spending more money to improve its PlayStation Network.
Sony, yet another large company, but they aren't spending the waves of cash they obtain on their customers' PSN service. End the greed.— Lizard Squad (@LizardSquad) August 24, 2014
In 2011, Sony’s PlayStation Network suffered a big security breach, during which account information was accessed. The denial of service attack that accompanied that attack was likely a smokescreen, says Wisniewski.
“It’s believed in 2011 that was used as a cover, to confuse the Sony security staff while other people infiltrated the network to steal sensitive information about their customers,” he says.
Sony recently agreed to a multi-million dollar preliminary court settlement to address claims arising from that breach.
This weekend’s DDoS attack was followed by a beyond-digital threat. Lizard Squad tweeted that an American Airlines flight carrying Sony’s online entertainment president John Smedley could also have explosives on-board.
The flight was diverted. Sony says the FBI is investigating.