Many gamers may remember that it was last Christmas that the hacking group, Lizard Squad tooK both Xbox Live and Playstation Network offline rendering them useless. Now, a different hacking group is threatening to do the same thing three days from now on Christmas and keep the networks inoperable for a week. Last year these two online gaming networks were brought to a halt by an attack called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) whereby hackers are able to mobilize a network of zombie computers called a botnet into flooding the system and overwhelming it with phony access requests. Even people playing a physical copy on their own machines were affected because newer versions of the consoles used to play video games require online authentication in an effort to thwart pirated video game copies.
Phantom Squad, the group threatening the attack this Christmas has apparently already attacked Microsoft’s Xbox Live last week temporarily taking it offline. The motive behind the threatened attack apparently is a response to both Microsoft and Sony, the maker of the Playstation Network not taking the steps necessary to provide greater security to users of their networks.
Although the danger to individual players is non-existent, it certainly is a major inconvenience to video game players around the world. DDOS attacks are relatively simple to achieve and the fact that companies are still vulnerable to such attacks reminds us that companies have much work to do to improve the reliability and security of their systems. The world is connected through the Internet, a system that was naively developed without security being a major concern. Government and private industry must take all necessary steps to reinvent the Internet with greater security before the effects of hacking become more than just the inconvenience of not being able to play a video game and become attacks on major systems such as the energy grid that have greater effects on our way of life.