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Sony sites offline after Anonymous attack threats

Sony works to restore Web sites that are downed after threats by Anonymous hacking group.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read
Sony site blames "routine maintenance" for being offline, as Anonymous hackers organize their targeted denial-of-service attack on their IRC channel.
Sony site blames "routine maintenance" for being offline, as Anonymous hackers organize their targeted denial-of-service attack using their IRC channel. Sony

Several Sony Web sites were offline today only days after the Anonymous hacker group threatened to target the company over its lawsuit against PlayStation 3 hacker George Hotz.

The main Sony site, as well as the Sony Style.com site and the PlayStation U.S. site, which has information on the PlayStation 3, were down as of midday.

"We are currently investigating, including the possibility of targeted behavior of an outside party," Sony said in a statement. "If this is indeed caused by such an act, we want to once again thank our customers who have borne the brunt of the attack through interrupted service. Our engineers are working to restore and maintain the services, and we appreciate our customers' continued support."

The Anonymous Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was buzzing with activity as Anonymous members set targets on the Sony Web sites, taking one of them down within 30 minutes and targeting the sites one after the other in an organized fashion, according to an observer of the chat activity.

The loosely organized group of hackers had warned Sony in an open letter that it would be targeted with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack because it had "abused the judicial system in an attempt to censor information about how your products work," among other criticisms. In a DDoS attack, a target Web site is bombarded with so many different computers trying to access it at once that the site in effect is shut down for everyone temporarily.

In an attempt to stop people from running custom packages on the PlayStation 3, Sony has filed a restraining order against Hotz, known as "Geohot," and a hacker who goes by the handle "Graf_Chokolo." A judge granted the order against Hotz early this year. Sony claims that jailbreaking the console violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud Abuse Act, which Hotz denies.

Sony also has been granted access to Hotz' social media accounts and to the IP addresses of visitors to his personal Web site, as well as to his PayPal account to gather information on funders.

Anonymous, which targeted the site of BMI last month, gained notoriety for organizing attacks on the Web sites of PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, and other companies in December in support of whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks. The FBI has issued search warrants in that case, and British police have arrested five people in connection to those attacks.