It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas might be miserable for Xbox and PlayStation video game fans.
A group calling itself PhantomSquad, who have been threatening for the last couple of weeks to take both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network down over the Christmas holidays, may have struck early after taking credit for an outage which affected the Xbox Live network late on Thursday evening.
Many users of the video game console found themselves unable to access core services for several hours, in an echo of the attack last Christmas which saw the notorious LizardSquad gang bring down the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.
Last year’s attacks were in the form of a distributed denial-of-service – where hackers command hijacked computers around the world to bombard websites with so much traffic that they cannot handle the load, and fall over.
PhantomSquad may not be affiliated with LizardSquad, but both groups appear to have had something in common – a desire to create headaches for Microsoft and Sony, and a lack of empathy for video gamers who are denied access to their favourite pastime.
Sure enough, PhantomSquad was quick to take credit for yesterday’s Xbox Live downtime:
Meanwhile, Microsoft posted a status report saying it was attempting to fix the access issues:
“Hey Xbox members, are you having trouble purchasing or managing your subscriptions for Xbox Live? Are you also having an issue with signing into Xbox Live? We are aware of these issues and are working to get it fixed ASAP! Thank you for being patient while we work. We’ll post another update when more information becomes available.”
And when Xbox Live became accessible again, the group warned that PlayStation Network would be the next to feel its wrath:
What possible reason could PhantomSquad have for wanting to attack video game networks? Often DDoS attacks are launched in an attempt to extort money out of website owners, but there is no suggestion in this case that that is the motivation of PhantomSquad.
Instead, it appears that PhantomSquad believes that Microsoft and Sony make lots of money from video games, but don’t invest enough in security. And, apparently, that’s a good enough reason for PhantomSquad to justify launching illegal denial-of-service attacks.
Whether PhantomSquad is truly responsible for the Xbox Live downtime or not is unclear, but with DDoS attacks relatively easy to pull off it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were somehow involved.
Twitter has since suspended Phantom Squad’s Twitter account. History has shown that although hacking groups might find it irritating when Twitter shuts down their accounts, they normally spring up again using a new account name in next to no time.
Companies whose business lives or dies based upon whether customers can reach their online services would be wise to plan ahead and investigate what they might need to do to mitigate denial-of-service attacks. Remember, if you can’t do your core business, if you miss business opportunities or contracts because your website is down, you will be potentially suffering a reputational loss as well as a financial hit.