As you're no doubt aware, the PlayStation Network has been down for nearly a week. Sony has said that the system is borked due to an "intrusion" and that repairing it is a time-consuming process, but has offered no time-frame on when it will return to life. In the absence of confirmed information on the cause of the network outage, we're left with theories and speculation. Below are a couple of the most popular theories floating around the internet:
Initial suspicion for the PSN outage fell on hacker group Anonymous. According to a source referenced by SixAxis, the PSN has fallen victim to an attack from Anonymous' "Low Orbit Ion Cannon." With its name taken from a weapon in Command and Conquer, LOiC is similar to a Distributed Denial of Service attack, and was reportedly invented by Anonymous group members to use against the Church of Scientology.
According to an anonymous tipster at the SixAxis, The PSN has suffered a “sustained LOIC attack on the PSN Store” and “a concentrated attack on PS servers holding account info." Reportedly, Admin Dev accounts were breached so the PSN was shut down by Sony.
It's easy to see why Anonymous would be suspected of killing the PSN. They "declared war" on Sony a few weeks previously, after all. But since then, the group called off its actions against Sony, and have publicly denied that they're responsible for the PSN outage on their website. Plus, a DDoS attack isn't an "intrusion," technically, and it's hard to imagine such a sustained outage from such a relatively crude attack.
An alternative explanation is advanced by Reddit user Chesh420, who speculates that the recent release of an alternative PS3 firmware program called "Rebug" is responsible for the outage. According to Chesh, who claims to be a moderator at PSX-Scene.com, Rebug allowed users of regular PlayStation 3 systems to, basically, mimic some of the functions of PS3 developer kits. Users began putting their hacked and banned PS3s back online through Rebug, and then discovered something even more important. According to Chesh, PlayStation 3 dev kits (special systems designed for developers), don't check the accuracy of credit card numbers entered into the system, so users quickly began flooding the PSN with fake cards to get free games. Here's the timeline that all this supposedly went down:
- Rebug was released on 3/31/11.
- First guides on how to use the dev network to get back on COD games on 4/3/11.
- Word of "shady" sites finding a way to pirate PSN content via the dev networks on 4/7/11
- PSN goes down on 4/20/11
While the above theory is just that, if the time-line of events turns out to be true, it makes a certain amount of sense that Sony would have "pulled the plug" on their service in the way that it did. I've reached out to both Chesh and the creators of Rebug to try to verify at least parts of this theory, but haven't heard back yet. When I do, I'll let you know.
The takeaway: Right now, we just don't know what happened, who or what is responsible, or how long it will be until everything on the PSN is back to normal.