Did Internet Activist Group 'Anonymous' Hack Sony?

Linda Sharps

Who's to blame for more than 100 million online gamers having their personal data compromised?

According to Sony, Anonymous did it.

Yeah, but who's Anonymous, you ask. In a nutshell, Anonymous is the so-called Internet vigilante group credited with denial-of-service attacks against companies that cut off services to WikiLeaks. They're a loosely affiliated collection of activists who got their start years ago on a hacker-friendly message board called 4chan, and have since grown to organize worldwide protests aimed at preserving free speech on the Internet.

Anonymous—whose members have probably watched Fight Club one too many times—created a 2010 campaign called "Operation Payback" in order to defend WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Their coordinated attacks on major corporate and government Web sites in December 2010 gained worldwide attention when they briefly shut down MasterCard, PayPal, and Visa.

Their beef with Sony? It had to do with jailbroken PS3s.

Anonymous was carrying out something they called "OpSony," an effort to cripple Sony websites in response to Sony's legal actions against hackers who were distributing tools to jailbreak the Playstation 3. In a letter to Sony, Anonymous wrote:

You have abused the judicial system in an attempt to censor information about how your products work. You have victimized your own customers merely for possessing and sharing information, and continue to target those who seek this information.

While Sony was protecting its network from Anonymous's denial-of-service attacks, they reportedly discovered a file planted on a server that was named "Anonymous" and had the words "We are legion" (one of Anonymous's taglines).

While Anonymous admits they were attacking Sony, they deny they had anything to do with PSN's outage or the subsequent data breach. They also released a robot-voice video response:

My guess is that the disorganized nature of Anonymous means that someone from their group probably had something to do with the stolen data, but it wasn't officially sanctioned by the activists. The group will likely endure more investigation now, but they're probably just happy to see Sony under fire for not better protecting their customers' data. Either way, I'm sure Anonymous is counting the Sony debacle as a win.

Had you heard of Anonymous before? Do you think they had anything to do with the Sony data breach?

Image via Flickr/gaelx

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