Anonymous not off the hook for the Sony PlayStation Network attack

Forensics teams have tracked the attack that netted the information to a file named "Anonymous" on an internal Sony server

The worldwide hacker group Anonymous may have played a role - even unwittingly - in the theft of personal data from 77 million Sony PlayStation Network customers, according to a letter from Sony's chairman to a Congressional committee.

Forensics teams have tracked the attack that netted the information to a file named "Anonymous" on an internal Sony server including the words "We are Legion", which is part of the hacker group's motto.

"Just weeks before, several Sony companies had been the target of a large-scale, coordinated denial of service attack by the group called Anonymous," says Kazuo Hirai, Sony's chairman, in the letter.


That attack and the threat of more had Sony network security staff focused on DDoS defense, which might have distracted them from discovering the breach earlier, the letter says, "perhaps by design."

"Whether those who participated in the denial of service attacks were conspirators or whether they were simply duped in to providing cover for a very clever thief, we may never know. In any case, those who participated in the denial of service attacks should understand that - whether they knew it or not - they were aiding in a well planned, well executed, large scale theft that left not only Sony a victim, but also Sony's many customers around the world."

Anonymous earlier issued a statement that it wasn't responsible, but acknowledged that individual members might have acted independently to break in and steal the data.

The letter to Congress was prompted by a set of questions sent from a Congressional committee to Sony seeking information about the breach, how it happened and what Sony was doing about it.

The letter says that the attackers exploited a software vulnerability in one of the applications in the network that supports PlayStation Network, the online gaming site for Sony PlayStation customers.

The network consists of 130 servers, 50 software programs and 77 million registered accounts, the letter says. In all, Sony came to believe 10 of those servers had been compromised.

The letter says Sony knows the personal data was compromised because it found records of queries being made for it and large data transfers being made out in response. There were no logs of request for credit card information or corresponding outbound transfers, which is why Sony says credit card information might have been compromised but it just doesn't know.

"Among other things, the intruders deleted log files in order to hide the extent of their work and activity within the network," the letter says, which led Sony to conclude that "very sophisticated and aggressive techniques to obtain unauthorized access, hide their presence from system administrators, and escalate privileges inside the servers" had been used.

"At the same time that the experienced attackers were carrying out their attack, they also attempted to destroy the evidence that would reveal their steps."

The worst moments in network security history

The company says it has taken six steps to prevent future breaches:

* Added automated software monitoring and configuration management to help defend against new attacks;

* Enhanced levels of data protection and encryption;

* Enhanced ability to detect software intrusions within the network, unauthorized access and unusual activity patterns;

* Implementation of additional firewalls;

* Expediting a planned mover of the system to a new data center in a different location with enhanced security;

* Naming of new chief information security officer directly reporting to the chief information officer of Sony Corp.

To make up to its customers, Sony plans to offer U.S. members complementary identity theft protection services.

It is creating a Welcome Back program including selected PlayStation entertainment content for free. All consumers returning to PSN will get 30 days free membership in PlayStation Plus premium subscription service. Current PlayStation Plus customers will have subscriptions extended for the number of days PSN and Qriocity services were unavailable and get an additional 30 days of free service, Sony says.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securitysonydata breachanti-malwarePlayStation Network hack

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Greene

Network World
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?