Sony claims Anonymous attack in letter to U.S. Representatives

The attack on PlayStation Network was a “very carefully planned, very
professional, highly sophisticated criminal cyber-attack designed to
steal personal and credit card information for illegal purposes
,” Sony Computer Entertainment asserted in a letter to members of Congress.

From the Associated Press:


Sony first disclosed the
attack last week and said it may have compromised credit card data,
email addresses and other personal information from 77 million user
accounts. On Monday, Sony said data from an additional 24.6 million
online gaming accounts also may have been stolen.

The company
has shut down the affected systems while it investigates the attacks
and beefs up security. (Sony Computer Entertainment Chairman Kazuo) Hirai said Sony is working “around the clock to
get the systems back up and to make sure all our customers are informed
of the data breach and our responses to it.”

Hirai also asserted in the letter that his company’s investigation found “the intruders had planted a file on one of those servers named ‘Anonymous’ with the words  ‘We Are Legion.’”

Anonymous known for its hacking or “hacktivist” attacks on whomever its members (?) don’t like, threatened Sony in an April 3 posting on the AnonOps Communications blog after Sony pursued legal action against George Hotz, AKA Geohot, the hacker who figured out and told the world how to jailbreak the PlayStation 3.

Sony and Geohot settled out of court, but not until after Sony won a federal magistrate’s approval to subpoena Geohot’s Internet provider to learn who visited his site.

Nonetheless, an April 24 posting headlined “For Once We Didn’t Do It” on AnonOps denies any official Anonymous attack on PlayStation Network. Whoever wrote the post, however, acknowledged that wildcat “Anons” may have acted on their own volition.

I honestly have no idea how Anonymous functions and if it can even be described accurately as an “organization.” What I do know, however, is that Sony has already confirmed that whoever is responsible for the data breach would have been able to access users’ identifying information, which is never a pleasant thought for anyone whose data could be compromised.

The oft-irreverent Gawker reports Anonymous fears a “nerd backlash” following allegations that their members (again, ?) are responsible for keeping gamers away from online play.

Anonymous has come to realize that attacking Sony’s PlayStation
Network alienates a powerful group of potential supporters: nerds. The
point was proved after Anonymous launched an unrelated attack on Sony in early April that briefly took down the PlayStation Network, in retaliation for Sony suing
a kid who bypassed the Playstation 3′s security systems. The attack
sparked a nerd backlash which crippled Anonymous chat servers with
retaliatory strikes and was generally a PR disaster.

“All the Sony kids were flooding the [Anonymous chat servers] and
whining and complaining,” said Gregg Housh an activist associated with
Anonymous. An attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network “pisses off a lot of
people they want as fans not enemies.” A similar concern was voiced last
December when Anonymous contemplated attacking Amazon in revenge for it
banning Wikileaks: One reason for not attacking was concern that the attack might anger people who were trying to do holiday shopping.

(Hotlinks in original.)

Sony has not reported the confirmed compromising of credit card data and asserts major credit card companies have not notified Sony of any fraudulent activity likely to be rooted in the April data breach.

Mass Effect 3 delayed to 2012

Bioware and EA Games will delay releasing Mass Effect 3 until 2012.

After setting out on an Internet search after seeing news of the delay on Twitter, this writer traced the news to Mass Effect 2′s Facebook page.

I’ve seen a lot of web comments from players who seem to be OK with delay, especially considering the widespread opinions that Dragon Age II – another Bioware/EA Games release – seemed rushed and oversimplified.

Tech-Out reviewer Todd Kistler liked much of the Dragon Age II’s storytelling aspects, but also found the game to over-simplified when compared to its predecessor.

In other EA News, the Redwood City-based publisher announced its fiscal results today. The firm reported a $312-million loss for the year ending March 31. That figure signified an improvement over the previous year’s loss of $677 million.

Nintendo cuts Wii price to $149.99

Nintendo, scheduled to unveil its next gaming console in June at the E3 convention in Los Angeles, announced today that it will reduce the price of its Wii console from $199.99 to $149.99.

The console will also be packaged “Mario Kart Wii” and matching “Wii Wheel” peripheral. The Wii’s iteration of Mario Kart will replace “Wii Sports” and “Wii Sports Resort.”

Nintendo also announced four titles, “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess,” “Animal Crossing: City Folk,” “Mario Super Sluggers” and “Wii Sports” will sell at the reduced price of $19.99 as the first four titles in the “Nintendo Selects” line, i.e. popular games that get to be sold at a discount with slightly different packaging, a la the “Greatest Hits” series for PlayStation 3 games or the “Platinum Hits” line for XBox 360 games.

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Brink news, FPS fans can “Get Smart”

Bethesda Softworks is releasing a series of videos for their forthcoming shooter, “Brink.” The vids explain game concepts like character classes, the game’s HUD and general gameplay.

One interesting tidbit: The game will allow players to change classes in the middle of the game.

I can’t post the videos since the game is rated M for Mature, but I’m assuming everyone who can find this blog can click a link.

Brink is scheduled for a May 10 North American release for PC, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360.

 I can also post the opening sequence from the classic “Get Smart” television series. So there.

Mercury News: Apple to update location tracking file

I like to post links to coverage from the San Jose Mercury News, The Sun and Daily Bulletin’s sister paper in the heart of the Silicon Valley.

Merc staffer Troy Wolverton reports today that Apple’s new iOS update will make changes to the location tracking software that allowed iPhones and iPads to track users’ whereabouts.

An excerpt:

The iOS update seeks to address many of the issues with the location file identified by the  researchers. According to Apple, the update will limit the amount of data kept in the location file, will prevent iTunes from backing up the file to users’ computers and  will delete all information in the file when users  turn off location services.


However, the update doesn’t necessarily address  all issues with the file. Apple has said previously  that it will continue to store 7 days worth of  location data in the file even after the update.  Forensics researchers, who have said that they have been using the location data stored file in  criminal and other legal investigations, said that  even that amount of data would still be useful in  their work.

Lego Pirates on XBox Live

Gamers who wish to plunder, swashbuckle and raise a general ruckus in (electronic) Lego form may wish to check out XBox Live to play the new demo for Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game.

The demo is available today, Disney Interactive Studios reported. From the announcement:

The game demo will feature the familiar Port Royal level, from the first film, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.” Players can jump into a tropical pirate adventure delivered in the humorous and quirky LEGO videogames style. The demo allows players to explore Port Royal in both Story Mode and Free Play, where players can seek out compass treasure and 10 ship-in-a-bottle minikits using 17 of the 70+ characters from the full game, where players will be able to play through all of the previous Pirates of the Caribbean movies, including the fourth installment, “On Stranger Tides.”

The game is scheduled for a May 10 release on Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii, PC, Sony PSP, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360.

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The fun side of nuclear war: Bethesda reveals Fallout: New Vegas DLC

The first “Fallout: New Vegas’” next three DLC packs will be released May 17, Bethesda Softworks reported today.

The new episodes follow December’s release of “Dead Money” for XBox Live players and remind this writer that he has not even finished all of Fallout 3′s DLC. (I’ll get into that spaceship someday.)

Fallout fans may remember (perhaps bitterly, if they play on PC or PlayStation 3) that “Dead Money” was a timed exclusive for Xbox and did not arrive on other platforms until late February. There’s no such arrangement this time, so all players who want to give Bethesda their money for more Fallout action can give Bethesda their money at the same time.

Here are descriptions of each episode from Bethesda’s press release:

Available
on May 17, “Honest Hearts” takes you on an expedition to the
unspoiled wilderness of Utah’s Zion National Park. Things go horribly wrong
when your caravan is ambushed by a tribal raiding band. As you try to find a
way back to the Mojave, you become embroiled in a war between tribes and a
conflict between a New Canaanite missionary and the mysterious Burned Man. The
decisions you make will determine the fate of Zion.

 

In
Old World Blues
, releasing in June, you will discover how
some of the Mojave’s mutated monsters came to be when you unwittingly
become a lab rat in a science experiment gone awry. You’ll need to scour
the Pre-War research centers of the Big Empty in search of technology to turn
the tables on your kidnappers or join forces with them against an even greater
threat.

 

Lonesome
Road
,
available in July, brings the courier’s story full circle when you are
contacted by the original Courier Six, a man by the name of Ulysses who refused
to deliver the Platinum Chip at the start of New Vegas. In his transmission,
Ulysses promises the answer as to why, but only if you take one last job
-a job that leads you into the depths of the hurricane-swept canyons of
the Divide, a landscape torn apart by earthquakes and violent storms. The road
to the Divide is a long and treacherous one, and of the few to ever walk the
road, none have ever returned.

Each DLC episode will be sold for $9.99 American or 800 Microsoft Points, for those doing business in the Republic of XBox Live.

Obsidian Entertainment developed the New Vegas games for Bethesda.

Sony Online Entertainment taken Offline

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Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) has gone offline for “maintenance” according to the statement at their site located here which has temporarily replaced their homepage. According to the message:

“Customers outside the United States should be advised that we further
discovered evidence that information from an outdated database from
2007 containing approximately 12,700 non-US customer credit or debit
card numbers and expiration dates (but not credit card security codes)
and about 10,700 direct debit records listing bank account numbers of
certain customers in Germany, Austria, Netherlands and Spain may have
also been obtained. We will be notifying each of those customers
promptly.”

They also go on to state that their main credit card database was not at risk as it is located in a “completely separate and secured environment.” SOE and PSN (Playstation Network)  provide separate entertainment services for Sony. SOE is probably better known among PC users for the MMOs they have focused on that platform, such as Everquest and Star Wars Galaxies.

However, perhaps as many as 24.6 million user accounts were also affected by the attack with personal information compromised in the same way that they had been on PSN with names, addresses, and hashed passwords placed at risk. Whether or not the two incidents are related is anyone’s guess. Since SOE is down, that also means anyone hoping to squeeze in a little time on any of its games are going to have to wait.

To say that Sony has had the worst few days in their life is probably something of an understatement at this point. With PSN’s forced downtime and now SOE’s over security, I can only imagine the IT specialists working in the trenches at the company praying for some light at the end of the tunnel.