Fear The Evil Lizard Squad No More
The Lizard Squad is comprised of Finnish teenager Julius Kivimäki, an undisclosed British “grammar school student” and 22-year old Londoner Vincent Omari. Maybe. Omari, for his part, oscillates between taking credit on the BBC and publicly denying any association with the group, infamously accused of bringing down networks for Xbox Live and PlayStation on Christmas Day in a massive DDoS attack.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
It’s best described as the pipe bomb of the hacking world – simplistic, destructive and incapable of actually capturing any data. It works by flooding a given server with junk requests, overwhelming their ability to respond to legitimate traffic, in this case frustrated gamers seeking to set up new accounts, compete in a multi-player environment or use “save game” features.
That attack was far more sophisticated than most DDoS attacks, bringing down the gaming divisions of two of technology’s biggest names, Microsoft and Sony, for more than a day. “Ryan Cleary,” the referential pseudonym thst’s most likely Kivimäki, implied that the group had access into the servers for both from which a far more devastating DDoS could be launched. “For attacks of this scale, you can’t really do them without … being able to gain access to the computers via hacking. You can’t just do DDoS attacks from your home computer. It doesn’t work.”1
The fracas was enough to draw the attention of other hacking entities who wanted the gaming networks restored: first on the scene was @FinestSquad, a group of counter-hackers who sought to end the attacks by publishing personal information about members of the Lizard Squad. Later the enigmatic West German expat / recidivist felon / living giant / multi-millionaire entrepreneur / erstwhile world number one Modern Warfare player / blowhard, Kim Dotcom, attempted to bribe the group with vouchers for his ultra-secure storage company, Mega. It’s unclear to what extent either was effective, but Kim was trolling 14 year olds days later (below).
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) December 29, 2014
Lizard Squad’s targeting of it attracted the attention of Anonymous, probably the world’s best known hacking organization. After declaring their intentions, Lizard Squad found themselves rebuked: “Hey @LizardMafia don’t fuck with the Tor network. People need that service because of corrupt governments. Stand the fuck down.” wrote @YourAnonNews. The Tor network can be used by anybody who wants to conceal their presence on the internet, for good or bad – journalists, political dissidents (in Egypt and Syria, among others), stalking victims, privacy wonks but also child pornographers, drug networks and god only knows what else.
— Anonymous (@TheAnonMovement) December 27, 2014
This escalation from the aggravating to the nefarious will certainly be noticed by those more terrifying than Anonymous; the group has been targeted by the FBI. The group even claims to have given away Sony authentication info to Guardians of Peace, the group responsible for leaking proprietary information throughout December in supposed retaliation for the then-upcoming Sony Pictures slapdick comedy The Interview.
Of course the process of identifying, building a case against, and ultimately extraditing anyone behind these attacks is a daunting challenge, even for the FBI. Concealing one’s identity is paramount to being a hacker, and they often invoke a variety of international protections based on privacy and anonymity.
Kivimäki and Omari could indeed be taking credit for someone else’s work, and even if their demise is imminent, there’s nothing to prevent copycat offenders from filling in the void. I found at least ten different Twitter accounts with variations on “Lizard Squad” and there are innumerable accounts associated with Anonymous.
All of this is to suggest that the internet feels more fragile than it has since you nervously punched your Mastercard number into Prodigy or AOL for the first time twenty years ago. 2014 featured the Sony Pictures hack; Target, Home Depot and other big box retailers hemorrhaged customer data and credit cards, Apple’s iCloud surrendered naked pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities. Even Twitter itself, where this story unfolded most publicly, had its login servers down for hours in law December 2014. The outage the result of an error in the site’s coding. Maybe.
1 Turton, W. (2014, December 26). Meet Lizard Squad, the hackers who ruined Christmas for gamers worldwide. Retrieved December 28, 2014, from http://www.dailydot.com/technology/lizard-squad-hackers/