THOSE that operate in the cloak and dagger world of computer hacking are often motivated by a sense of social justice or an ideological commitment to the freedom of information.
However one group of hackers has rejected any ethical motivations and has been intent on causing senseless disruption.
At the beginning of the month a group called Lizzard Squad issued a threat that they would take down the online networks of PlayStation and Xbox over the Christmas period.
The networks are required by certain video games to run from a home console, which would mean gamers all over the world would be unable to play.
While the Lizzard Squad has a history of malicious attacks, another (more benevolent) hacker group has emerged with the explicit intent to bring them down.
The work of Lizzard Squad
On August 24th, Lizzrd Squad claimed responsibility for bringing down the PlayStation network as well as launching attacks on Blizzard, the company responsible for the World of Warcraft game.
In the same month, Lizzard Squad forced the flight of Sony executive John Smedley to be diverted by sending a bomb threat in this tweet.
As Smedley’s flight was grounded, the group shared messages discussing 9/11 and comparing themselves to IS.
After releasing a statement claiming they were finished with their destructive practices, the group returned in September in an attack that saw them periodically take down the online platforms of popular games, Call of Duty, FIFA, Madden and The Sims 4.
After further disrupting PlayStation’s online store and the Xbox live network in early December, Lizzard Squad referred to themselves as “the next generation Grinch” and took to twitter to solicit support from their followers.
The group claimed that they would bring down online gaming over the Christmas period.
The hackers that saved Christmas
The activities of Lizzard Squad courted notoriety and condemnation in equal parts. Even hacker super group, Anonymous, posted a video threatening action against the group for “propagandist” remarks.
However Lizzard Squad’s threats to ruin gaming over Christmas led to the formulation of a group of incensed gamers and hackers calling themselves the Finest Squad, who touted theobjective to “bring cyber criminals to justice.”
The rival hacker clique managed to break into the public Twitter accounts and websites of Lizard Squad’s members and proceeded to release their personal information online. This is known as ‘doxxing’ in the online community and is the ultimate punishment for hackers that can only survive with anonymity.
While the Finest Squad have not publicised how they accessed the data, it was most likely through checking for weak spots in their email, Skype, Twitter, and web hosting accounts.
Since the doxxing, members of the Lizzard Squad have gone quiet and have subsequently been subject to arrest by US authorities — some members even live tweeted their arrest.
In an effort to help the gaming companies, the Finest Squad also revealed how Lizard managed to bring down the video game networks. In short, the group used a tactic that sends a flood of web traffic to a single network which is designed to crash the web server. It’s known as a distributed denial of service attack and could have cost as little as AU$200.
This appears to be a story of good triumphing over bad, and while the gaming community rejoices over the hackers that saved Christmas, the rest of us are free to game in peace.