Federal investigators in the United States were attempting on Monday to get to the bottom of a fresh cyber-based assault against the Sony Corporation on Sunday that saw a brief shutdown of its PlayStation Network and the emergency diversion of a commercial airliner that was carrying one of its top executives.
The company said its network had been fully restored and that no customer information had been compromised in what it said had been a “large-scale” attack, which normally involves an intruder using multiple computers to overwhelm the system forcing it to shut down. Meanwhile, John Smedley, its Online Entertainment President, was safe after what appeared to be a false bomb threat against his plane.
Sony suffered a similar event in 2011 when hackers stole credit card information from about 77 million of its customers crippling the network for two months.
There was an early claim of responsibility for the network intrusion on Sunday via Twitter by a group identifying itself as the Lizard Squad. It said its purpose was to highlight the lingering vulnerabilities in Sony’s internet network, which allows players to communicate and play games with each other and access game content. It said it was also targeting the similar system for Xbox, made by Microsoft, and the makers of World of Warcraft video games.
The hacking group meanwhile dismissed as phony a second, more chilling, claim of responsibility that also surfaced on Twitter from a group purporting to have links to Isis – the jihadist group operating in Iraq and Syria. “Kuffar [non-Muslims] don’t get to play videogames until bombing of [Isis] stops,” it said.”
How Mr Smedley then found himself in the midst of a potential terror attack remains unclear. However, while tweeting early on Sunday about the renewed cyber-attack he also mentioned his travel schedule and that he would soon be boarding his plane. Later the Lizard Squad tweeted that it had information about a bomb on board. That in turn prompted the diversion of the aircraft, which by then was in flight, to Phoenix.
“Yes. My plane was diverted. Not going to discuss more than that. Justice will find these guys,” Mr Smedley wrote on Twitter after the plane landed. Sony confirmed that the FBI was investigating the threat against his plane.
There was no suggestion that Sunday’s network breach, known as a denial of service attack, would have long term consequences. “We have seen no evidence of any intrusion to the network and no evidence of any unauthorised access to users’ personal information,” said Sid Shuman, Sony’s senior manager of social media.