How Kim Dotcom helped stop holiday Xbox Live and PSN DDoS attacks
Over the Christmas holiday, a loosely organized group of hackers known as Lizard Squad took down Microsoft’s online gaming service, Xbox Live (XBL), as well as Sony’s online gaming platform, PlayStation Network (PSN), through coordinated denial-of-service attacks (DDoS).
But the legally embattled owner of Mega, Kim Dotcom, may have offered the olive branch that helped both online gaming services slowly come back online.
DDoS attacks are implemented by either forcing the targeted network’s service or website to reset, or by consuming its resources at such a high level that it can no longer function. While relatively simple and not considered “hacking” by security experts, large-scale DDoS attacks, like those against Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, require the use of massive “botnets,” compromised computers all working in unison to overwhelm a service.
This meant that for the majority of the holiday, including Christmas Day and Boxing Day, two of the highest traffic online gaming days of the year, most people were unable to access either Xbox Live or PSN.
While Lizard Squad’s motivations for the attacks are still unclear, the group claims they want Microsoft and Sony to improve security on their online services. Just like many online attacks of this kind, it’s more likely they were perpetrated simply because they were possible, especially since preventing a DDoS attack is difficult regardless of how secure a network is.
The controversy surrounding the attacks also involved a rival hacking group, The Finest Squad, allegedly attempting multiple times to take down Lizard Squad over the course of the holidays through their own DDoS attacks and by “doxing,” releasing the personal information of Lizard Squad members. These efforts ultimately failed and both PSN and XBL remained offline until Dotcom intervened. Lizard Squad and The Finest Squad also frequently traded insults through social media and on popular YouTube hacking-focused talk show, DramaAlert.
This is where Kim Dotcom comes in: contacting Lizard Squad directly and promising the group 3,000 $99 Lifetime accounts, worth approximately $300,000 in total, for his encrypted upload service, Mega, if they stopped their DDoS assault on XBL and PSN. Lizard Squad also credited Dotcom with being the main peacemaker in terms of getting the attacks to stop.
Despite one faction of Lizard Squad claiming all attacks have ceased, another faction of the group reportedly continued disrupting XBL and PSN, creating free digital game listings for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Destiny. When both services went back online they were also overwhelmed with thousands of users trying to log into their profiles simultaneously, creating additional difficulties for Microsoft and Sony’s online infrastructure.
However, As of Dec. 30th, both Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network are running relatively smoothly.
Despite playing an important role in getting both gaming services back online, some have criticized Dotcom for setting a dangerous precedent by giving away free Mega accounts to malicious hackers.
Other recent high-profile hacking incidents include a group of hackers known as the Guardians of Peace gaining access to Sony’s internal network and leaking a number unreleased films, and also threatening a terrorist attack if the controversial movie The Interview was released.