The cyber-attack that took down Sony’s PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network on Sunday was nothing sophisticated: It was a plain old distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. Lately, cybersecurity defenders have been focused on so-called advanced persistent threats and zero-day attacks—covert, often long-simmering hacks that exploit a system’s previously unknown flaws. But a growing number of hackers appear to be returning to the time-tested strategy of hammering a website with phony traffic until it breaks.
Unlike data breaches, DDoS attacks don’t steal anything. They just cause big, expensive headaches for targeted companies. The hackers this time were definitely going for maximum eyeballs, using a Twitter account with the handle Lizard Squad to claim responsibility and tweet about a bomb threat to an American Airlines flight, which happened to be carrying the president of Sony’s online entertainment unit. The plane, bound for San Diego, made an unplanned stop in Phoenix, and the matter was referred to the FBI.