Feeds

Did PlayStation Network hackers plan supercomputer botnet?

Sony 'arrogance' fuels Doomsday scenario

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

The dearth of details from Sony about a criminal intrusion into its PlayStation Network is fomenting plenty of speculation about the methods and motives behind the attackers, and some of it isn't pretty.

The most dire scenario is that attackers gained, or tried to gain, control of the part of Sony's network that issues updates for the PlayStation 3. If that were to happen, the attackers could use the private key uncovered late last year by the fail0verflow hacker collective, and independently published around the same time by jailbreaker George Hotz, to sign malicious firmware updates offered to tens of millions of console owners.

In 2008, researchers effectively created their own rogue certificate authority by harnessing the massive computing power of just 200 PS3s to find so-called collisions in MD5, a cryptographic hash algorithm with known weaknesses. With an army of literally millions of zombie PS3s under their control, hackers would own a supercomputer at par or superior to those possessed by most nation states, and they wouldn't even have to foot the power bill.

“It's really scary,” said Marsh Ray, a researcher and software developer at two-factor authentication service PhoneFactor, who fleshed out the doomsday scenario more thoroughly on Monday. “It's justification for Sony freaking out. They could lose control of their whole PS3 network.”

Ray's speculation is fueled in part by chat transcripts that appear to show unknown hackers discussing serious weaknesses in the PSN authentication system. In it, purported hackers going by the handles trixter and SKFU discuss how to connect to PSN servers using consoles with older firmware that contain bugs susceptible to jailbreaking exploits, even though Sony takes great pains to prevent that from happening.

“I just finished decrypting 100% of all PSN functions,” SKFU claimed.

There's no evidence the participants had anything to do with the massive security breach that plundered names, addresses, email addresses, passwords and other sensitive information from some 77 million PSN users. But the log did raise questions about the security of the network, since it claimed it was possible to fool the PSN's authentication system into permitting rogue consoles.

What's more, the hackers discussed ways to use a modified version of Moxie Marlinspike's SSLSniff on modded PS3s to defeat SSL encryption that protects communications between the PSN and the console.

Around the same time the chat log came to light, a PS3 user blogged about Rebug, which he described as a piece of custom firmware that converts retail consoles into developer consoles with significantly more options. Once again, there's no evidence the PS3 user, who went by the name chesh420, had anything to do with the breach, but he claimed the modded machines were able to engage in “extreme piracy of PSN content” by bypassing the network's authentication system.

Researchers speculating on the cause of the PSN breach are reading the posts as evidence that it may be possible to override Sony's security using modded PS3s, particularly if it was premised on the assumption that it was impossible for jailbroken consoles to access the network.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.