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Did PlayStation Network hackers plan supercomputer botnet?

Sony 'arrogance' fuels Doomsday scenario

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Sony 'arrogance' undermines security

“If you can't jailbreak it, then I can see a developer assuming that they don't need a particular authorization check on what's coming across the wire because a user can't do that,” said WhiteHat Security CTO Jeremiah Grossman, an expert in web application security. “So if somebody managed to jailbreak their device and pop a flaw, I can see something major happening there.”

Hotz, the PS3 jailbreaker who recently settled the copyright lawsuit Sony brought against him, said in a recent blog post that the theory is plausible and that responsibility for the hack lay squarely on the shoulders of Sony executives who placed too much trust in the invulnerability of the PS3.

“Since everyone knows the PS3 is unhackable, why waste money adding pointless security between the client and the server?” Hotz, aka GeoHot, wrote. “This arrogance undermines a basic security principle, never trust the client. Sony needs to accept that they no longer own and control the PS3 when they sell it to you.”

Of course, the cause of the hack and the motivation of those behind it are pure speculation. A SQL injection attack, which uses ordinary user input to pass powerful commands to a website's backend database, might also have been at play, as could any number of other exploits.

What's clear from the information stolen, the possibility that encrypted payment card data was also taken, and the amount of time the PSN has been unavailable (nine days at time of writing), is that the attackers had access to the very core of Sony's system – its database or web application system, for instance – and that this access lasted for hours or days.

PSN users are already lining up in court to sue Sony over the colossal security failure.

According to Sony's bare-bones account, the information was compromised from April 17 to April 19. By the following day, the PSN was taken offline. That means the scenario raised by Ray, the researcher who said attackers may have wanted to build their own supercomputer botnet, almost certainly didn't have enough time to unfold.

But he said users shouldn't assume anything until they get more information.

“In the meantime, I recommend that everyone unplug the network cable and disable the WiFi from their PS3 until the all-clear signal is given from Sony,” he wrote. “Ideally that signal would take the form of a disclosure of information in sufficient detail for us to come to our own judgment about the security of these systems going forward before we allow them back on our internal networks again.” ®

Bootnote

Kevin Poulsen of Wired.com spins an engaging yarn about Trixter. Referring to the chat log, Poulsen writes: "The parts of the discussion that delve into Sony’s security posture appear eerily prescient in the wake of the intrusion that exposed personal information on 77 million users, and copies of the chats are now lighting up gaming blogs and Twitter feeds."

More unconfirmed bread crumbs, these ones strongly suggesting sony.com2.us was hacked. That, of course, ain't Sony's.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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