Are they dangerous or just obnoxious? As is often the case with especially vocal hackers, that’s what many are wondering about the group Lizard Squad, especially after it tweeted out a bomb threat that grounded a flight carrying a Sony executive over the weekend, among other malicious acts.
The group has also successfully targeted gaming networks including Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live in recent days before making bigger news by diverting a plane carrying Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley by claiming his flight was carrying explosives. That stunt got the attention of the FBI, although the group hasn’t been tracked down yet.
"@AmericanAir We have been receiving reports that @j_smedley's plane #362 from DFW to SAN has explosives on-board, please look into this," the group tweeted Sunday.
Identifying themselves as @LizardSquad on Twitter, the group seems to have targeted both PlayStation Network and Xbox Live by using a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which sends an overwhelming volume of traffic toward a target to knock it offline.
After experiencing some outages on its gaming network on Sunday, Sony released a statement confirming the attack and pointed out that it hadn’t seen evidence of an intrusion to the network or unauthorized access to users’ personal information.
Lizard Squad’s latest target is the livestream site Twitch, which was bought by Amazon for about $1 billion earlier this week. Twitch hosts gamers who stream gameplay in front of sometimes huge audiences.
Also this week, Lizard Squad went after Battle.net, the online network responsible for Blizzard games including Hearthstone. It also targeted Dota 2 from Valve, and seemed to have its sights set on blogging site Tumblr.
Lizard Squad has gone out of its way to goad its targets. It got a number of popular Twitch streamers, including Sky Williams, MaxMoeFoe and Mia Rose to write "Lizard Squad" on their foreheads, take selfies and tweet out the photos. Once enough of the streamers complied, Lizard Squad’s DDoS attacks on Twitch subsided.
Where Are They?
Authorities are trying to figure out where the members of Lizard Squad are based. Some observers say the group’s frequent references to 9/11 and the Sunni jihadist group ISIS suggest that its members are located outside the United States, which could complicate enforcement efforts by domestic agencies.
There’s also some doubt about whether Lizard Squad is behind all the attacks it’s taking credit for. A hacker said to be a member of the collective Anonymous posted secure data online indicating that he might have been involved in the Playstation Live hack.
Xbox Live was hit harder over the weekend and its service remained affected as of Tuesday. Microsoft posted a message asking users to report any difficulties regarding server unavailability, and said it will update users once it has more information.