Anonymous: We didn't hack PlayStation Network

A letter purporting to come from the hacker group denies involvement in the PlayStation Network attack that forced Sony to take down its online service.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

A letter purporting to represent the Anonymous hacking group claims the organization was not behind the PlayStation Network attack.

"If a legitimate and honest investigation...is conducted, Anonymous will not be found liable," reads the letter, which was posted to the Web yesterday. "While we are a distributed and decentralized group, our 'leadership' does not condone credit card theft."

The letter is a response to accusations on Sony's part that Anonymous is responsible for last month's massive assault on its customer data.

Earlier yesterday, Sony Computer Entertainment Chief Kazuo Hirai wrote in a letter to Congress that his company found a file named "Anonymous" on a Sony Online Entertainment server. However, Hirai stopped short of saying that he believes the hacker group stole customer data.

"When Sony Online Entertainment discovered this past Sunday afternoon that data from its servers had been stolen, it also discovered that the intruders had planted a file named 'Anonymous' on one of those servers, a file containing the statement with the words 'We are Legion,'" Hirai wrote.

Last month, Sony announced that the personal information of its 77 million PlayStation Network and Qriocity users was stolen in what it's now calling a "very carefully planned, very professional, highly sophisticated criminal cyberattack designed to steal personal and credit card information for illegal purposes." Though the company has said that it has found no incidences of identity theft or illegal purchases yet, the company's online services are still down. Sony Online Entertainment also went offline this week as the result of a cyberattack.

Anonymous did allegedly target Sony with a denial-of-service attack in early April in response to Sony's lawsuit against alleged PlayStation 3 hacker George Hotz. But it claims no involvement in the PlayStation Network hack.

Admittedly, trying to determine whether the letter actually represents Anonymous is difficult. As Anonymous points out, it's a "decentralized" group operating around the globe without any clear hierarchy. Whether a single letter posted to the Web can speak for the organization is nearly impossible to determine.

But there might be more than just Anonymous' apparent claims to help its case. As CNET's Elinor Mills pointed out yesterday in her report on Hirai's statement, Anonymous is typically long-winded when it leaves its stamp on a statement. In the past, the company has ended communications with "We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not Forgive. We do not Forget. Expect Us." As Sony pointed out, the file it found contained only "We are Legion."

Though Sony isn't quite ready to point any fingers directly, the company did say that Anonymous' denial-of-service attacks helped whomever was able to hack into the company's online services.

"Almost two weeks ago, one or more cybercriminals gained access to PlayStation Network servers at or around the same time that these servers were experiencing denial-of-service attacks," Hirai said. "The Sony Network Entertainment America team did not immediately detect the criminal intrusion for several possible reasons. That may have made it more difficult to detect this intrusion quickly--all perhaps by design.

"Whether those who participated in the denial-of-services attacks were conspirators or whether they were simply duped into providing cover for a very clever thief, we may never know," Hirai continued. "In any case, those who participated in the denial-of-service attacks should understand that--whether they knew it or not--they were aiding in a well planned, well executed, large-scale theft that left not only Sony a victim, but also Sony's many customers around the world."

Anonymous doesn't seem prepared to sympathize, and it ended its letter yesterday with a hint of its feelings about being cited in Sony's congressional statement.

"We do not forgive, even if others forgive our enemies for those things for which we are attacked," it wrote. "We do not forget, even if others fail to remember. We are legion, and will remain so no matter how many of our participants are raided by armed agents of a broken system. We are Anonymous. Expect us."