Lizard Squad goes after Twitch. Cyber criminals or just Internet Trolls? (+video)

Lizard Squad, which has gained notoriety for a string of recent attacks on the gaming industry, has gone after video game streaming site Twitch.

By , Staff Writer

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    The hacking group known as Lizard Squad has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on the gaming industry, which most recently includes the video game streaming site Twitch.
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Lizard Squad: The name that sounds applicable for the villains in a Saturday-morning cartoon has claimed responsibility for repeated cyber attacks this week, most recently for targeting Twitch, the video game streaming site recently acquired by Amazon for nearly $1 billion. 

Using what's known as a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, the hacking onslaught on Twitch began Aug. 26, causing the site to go down for a period of time. As of Thursday afternoon, Twitch is back up and running.              

"We've located the issue with VOD [video on demand] playback, and are working to re-link files to URLs now. We do not believe any data is lost," the Twitch Support Twitter account tweeted Thursday, adding that "Videos should be playable again." 

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Earlier this week, Lizard Squad said it had instigated a hack on the Sony PlayStation Network that coincided with a bomb threat on an American Airlines flight that was carrying top Sony executive John Smedley, the president of Sony Online Entertainment. Lizard Squad said the hack was "meant to pressure Sony to invest more in the network."

More recently, Lizard Squad also claims to have gone after other top players in the gaming community. In addition to Twitch, other victims it takes credit for hacking include Blizzard Entertainment's Battle.net, Microsoft's Xbox Live, and Riot Games. 

But the tactics it uses demonstrate a rudimentary understanding of hacking, as DDoS attacks are actually quite simple, according to Molly Sauter, a research affiliate at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab. 

DDoS, in essence, refers to the practice of deliberately trying to crash a server in order to make a point, typically for an activist cause, Ms. Sauter says. But she says Lizard Squad likely does not have a political bent. Rather, she says these actions could easily be a play to gain a type of fame. 

"This might be a series of actions intended to gain publicity or notoriety," she says. "Basically, they're using a very rudimentary set of tactics to create a big splash but that indicates that they don't have more sophisticated skills. Or if they do, they're certainly not using them."

Sauter adds that the group's behavior is reminiscent of an Internet troll, or someone who deliberately tries to enrage people or cause chaos on the Web, in which case the media attention the group has garnered in the past week "seems to be playing into exactly what they want," she says. 

Still, Lizard Squad is active on Twitter and has been gaining followers at a rapid rate. On Monday, the group had more than 36,000 followers. But as of Thursday, that number had climbed to more than 52,000. 

The domain lizardsquad.com, which Lizard Squad links to on its Twitter home page, has been seized by the FBI. 

The group has also tweeted disturbing messages that reference violence and seem to tie the group to extremist groups. 

For example, on August 25, Lizard Squad tweeted, "Just took Vatican City offline, all kuffar shall die. #ISIS #Jihad #ISIL #IS." 

During the perceived bomb threat on the American Airlines flight, the group also tweeted, "Today we planted the ISIS flag on @Sony's servers #ISIS #jihad."

Twitter's rules explicitly state that users "may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others." In recent weeks, the site has suspended several accounts from the Palestinian militant organization Hamas as well as accounts tied to IS, which recently executed American journalist James Foley, whose beheading was circulated in a grisly video. Twitter said it would suspend accounts that circulated that video. Twitter's suspensions of IS accounts have prompted that group to turn to the lesser-known, more diffuse social media platform Diaspora

And yet, Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler declined repeated requests for comment as to why Lizard Squad has been allowed to remain on its site. 

"We do not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons," Mr. Wexler says in an e-mail. 

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