Remember last Christmas when a group of hackers calling themselves LizardSquad ruined the holidays for many video game lovers by knocking the Xbox Live and PlayStation Network offline with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack?
Well, we could be heading for an action replay.
At least, that may be the case if we can believe a new Twitter account that sprung up at the end of November.
The account - @PhantomSqaud (sic) - claims to belong to a DDoS gang called (you guessed it) “Phantom Squad”, and in a series of tweets they say they have their sights set on disrupting the PlayStation and Xbox Live networks in a co-ordinated denial-of-service attack.
We are going to shut down Xbox live and PSN this year on christmas. And we are going to keep them down for one week straight #DramaAlert
Ok think about this… Xbox Live and PSN have millions upon millions of dollars… but do they use that money for better security?
No. PSN and Xbox don’t use that money to improve their security… So until they open their eyes Xbox Live and PSN will remain vulnerable.
If the threats are true, it will certainly put a damper on the holiday fun for a lot of people, especially those who have just been given a new game or console and are keen to blast each other to smithereens in the true spirit of Christmas.
Of course, we always have to be careful about claims made anonymously on the internet. It takes little more than the technological know-how of a gerbil to create a Twitter account, and make aggressive claims on it.
Just as we should be wary of taking too seriously any YouTube videos posted online claiming to represent Anonymous which might have been made by any 14-year-old in his back bedroom with a copy of Camtasia and a “V for Vendetta” mask.
But perhaps we should take Phantom Squad’s threats more seriously.
The group has already claimed responsibility for outages at XBox Live earlier this month, as well as brief disruption that Reddit suffered earlier this week.
As Softpedia reports, the group has also claimed to have launched attacks against Steam, as well as gaming servers for Star Wars: The Old Republic, Grand Theft Auto 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and 3.
If the threats can be taken seriously, and especially if Microsoft and Sony’s gaming networks do go offline after a malicious attack, then Phantom Squad’s members might want to be looking over their shoulder.
Because, in the past, the authorities have put considerable effort into pursuing those criminals who launch attacks - even if they are being done for teenage “lulz” rather than money.
After all, it was just a matter of days before computer crime-fighting authorities rapidly identified suspected members of the LizardSquad gang in the wake of last year’s attack, and some found themselves facing their day in court.
Everyone should remember that denial-of-service attacks are no laughing matter, and treated seriously by the authorities. If you participate in a DDoS attack, you could end up in jail.