20th May was a sad day for PlayStation 3 addicts all around the world. This was because they were left lonely, dejected & rejected due to the sudden attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network.
For the people who are new to this, the PlayStation Network is an online gaming network exclusively for PlayStation 3 owners. Currently, the PSN is one of the largest online free gaming networks.
A little bit of background history
George Francis Hotz, or ‘geohot’ as he’s more lovingly known by Anonymous (an online hacktivist group), hacked into Sony’s PlayStation 3. He managed to get himself read and write access to the PlayStation 3 system memory. He then created a Custom Firmware (CFW) and posted it on his personal website. The CFW allowed users to run non Sony-approved software on the PS3 system via the ‘Other OS’ option on the PS3.
An attempt to ‘jailbreak’ the PS3 got Sony’s asses on fire. The very next day, they released a statement that the outage was due to an “external intrusion”.
Gamers all around the world were faced with the following error-
“You may find you are having an issue signing in with the error code (80710A06).”
Soon enough, Sony responded with a lawsuit against George Hotz for hacking into the security system of the PS3. Sony demanded social media sites, to hand over the IP addresses of the people who had visited Geohot’s personal website. PayPal and BlueHost had also agreed to give George Hotz’ PayPal account information to Sony.
After many legal battles, on March 31st, Sony came to a mutual agreement with George Hotz. The terms of the agreement weren’t quite released online by Sony. But, my personal guess would be that Sony must’ve warned George Hotz about the consequences of hacking into the PS3, which would obviously scare George off, for the rest of his life.
Cut to 20th April
Little did Sony know that their entire PlayStation Network, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) and Qriocity (Sony’s music streaming service) would be hacked into, in the next few days. After almost a week of the PSN being down, Sony came out into the open and said that “user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network.”
This is making Sony pee in their pants because the hackers could potentially have access to the personal information such as names, addresses, credit card numbers, PSN passwords and e-mail addresses of 77 million users! And since, most users use one password across most online services; this could be the greatest haul for hackers in the history of technology.
Sony claimed that while credit card and password data was encrypted, the private information of the user was stored in ClearText form-which enables humans to read the information without any processing whatsoever. On their online PlayStation blog, Sony stated that they are currently working with the FBI on this matter as well as a recognized technology security firm to conduct a complete investigation.
Meanwhile, Sony was sued for $1 billion by gamers all around the world. There have been reports of fraudulent activities from the credit cards registered on the PSN. The credit card of a GameFly Media employee was used to buy $1500 worth of groceries in Germany. An American Express credit card was used to purchase $8000 worth of goods at a Japanese store. In both cases, the credit cards used to commit the fraud, had been previously used on Sony’s PlayStation Network.
In a letter to the United States Congress, Sony was quick to blame the online hacktivist group. They wrote that they had discovered a file named “Anonymous” planted by one of the intruders which said “We Are Legion”
Concurrently, Anonymous released a statement that they were not responsible for the second attack on Sony’s PSN, Qriocity and SOE services and that whoever broke into the Sony’s PSN servers to steal the credit card information clearly wanted to blame Anonymous for the biggest digital scam in history. Whether Anonymous has actually done it or not, is a question that only they can answer.
On May 16th, Sony began the first phase of restoration of the PlayStation Network across Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand & the Middle East. Users were made to update their PS3 firmware to v3.61 to take advantage of the new security features Sony has implemented.
With the PSN back online, the gamers can get back to what they do best- eat, sleep and play games 24/7.