PlayStation, Xbox still struggling after alleged hack

Posted at 3:53 PM, Dec 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-27 15:53:41-05

(CNN) — PlayStation was still hobbled over the weekend after a possible cyberattack Thursday on the network that enables its gamers to play one another online.

Xbox also went down on Christmas Day — one of the busiest gaming days of the year — though by Saturday afternoon its website was reporting that most of Xbox Live’s services were up and running.

Neither Sony or Microsoft, which own PlayStation and Xbox, respectively, have had much to say throughout the outage beyond the occasional tweet acknowledging that it was aware of the situation and that it was working on a fix.

PlayStation gamers exasperated

A red bar atop the PlayStation support website read “PSN Status: OFFLINE” on Saturday afternoon, despite tweeting 12 hours earlier: “Update: PS4, PS3, and Vita network services are gradually coming back online — thanks for your patience.”

But based on the overall sentiment expressed in the comments posted to message boards and in response to their update that PSN was gradually coming back online — a tweet that was “favorited” and retweeted tens of thousands of times — the collective patience among PlayStation users had long since run out. The fact that Xbox was back up and running while PS devotees were still offline, perhaps even forced to, gulp, interact with human beings — and in person no less — only furthered their exasperation.

“@AskPlayStation any chance you guys could consult with #xboxlive engineers on how to get #psn back up?” @robbhunt asked on Twitter. “They seem to have things figured out.”

@LilGizmoe_ tweeted a picture of her entertainment console at her house in Montana with this caption: “I wish PSN would come back online. Bought hubby a PS4 for Christmas. Only thing its good for right now is a tv stand.”

Sony hacked again?

A great deal of the contempt however was reserved for Lizard Squad, a band of black-hat hackers who said they caused the outage.

“This is so frustrating,” wrote calin75. “The hackers think they’re hurting Sony, but the ones that really pay for this bull crap are the innocent users.”

CNN cannot confirm the identity or claims of Lizard Squad, and neither Sony or Microsoft have said anything about their plaguing network issues being the result a cyberattack — and neither may ever do so. “We don’t share info on the root cause of specific issues,” Xbox spokesman Sean McCarthy told CNN.

But if it turns out that this was indeed a cyberattack, chances are it was Lizard Squad, because there is little reason to doubt their claims.

In August, the group said it took down the PlayStation network by flooding it with illegitimate traffic, something called a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) in the video game world.

As CNNMoney reported at the time, when John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment, tweeted about those “large scale” attacks, he became a Lizard Squad target himself — even at 30,000 feet.

“We have been receiving reports that @j_smedley’s plane #362 from DFW to SAN has explosives on-board, please look into this,” the hackers tweeted to American Airlines, resulting in the flight being diverted.

Earlier this month, Sony was hit with a similar outage that Lizard Squad not only took credit for, but it promised additional “Christmas presents” would soon be coming. “Unlike Santa, we don’t like giving all of our Christmas presents out on one day. This entire month will be entertaining,” Lizard Squad tweeted.

At 6:13 p.m. Friday, a Lizard Squad twitter handle tweeted, “ALL ATTACKS ON PSN AND XBOX HAVE STOPPED.” When a CNN reporter hit refresh moments later on the Sony Entertainment Network website — which had been down since Thursday evening — it was back online.

Stupid coincidence?

The network downtime started just hours after Microsoft’s Xbox video store started to stream the Seth Rogen comedy “The Interview.” The movie was made by Sony Pictures, a sibling of Sony’s PlayStation division.

Sony was the victim of a massive cyberattack in late November that was widely believed to be motivated, at least in part, by North Korea’s anger over “The Interview,” which depicts the assassination of the country’s leader Kim Jong Un.

But there was no indication that Thursday’s problems were connected to the movie’s digital release.

Other participating distributors of the movie, such as YouTube, were unaffected. And PlayStation is not participating in the release.

A Sony Pictures spokesman deferred to PlayStation for comment about the outage.

CNN’s Ben Brumfield, Steve Almasy, Brian Stelter and Tony Marco contributed to this report.