February 23, 2016
Xbox LIVE Service Restored Following DDOS Attack, Hackers Say They Can Knock Xbox Off Face Of Earth

Xbox One owners have had a rough 24 hours trying to play their games online due to a DDOS attack against Xbox LIVE. Service was finally restored early Tuesday afternoon amid complaints and the hacker group responsible crowing about their takedown of the service to Newsweek.

Xbox Head Phil Spencer apologized to Xbox owners on Twitter by publicly stating he was "[v]ery sorry for the current issues." The Xbox Support page now shows that all services have been restored with the exception of the Xbox Video and Music Stores for the Xbox 360.

Those attempting to play games suffered from either not being able to launch their digitally purchased games, because the servers to verify the purchase were down or had problems connecting to online games when they were able to launch. For example, the population of the ARK: Survival Evolved official servers were the lowest seen since launch, while Rocket League's matchmaking took forever because the number of people able to get in the playlists were barely over a thousand. That's for a game that enjoyed a record 195,000 concurrent players across three platforms over the weekend.

So what caused the Xbox LIVE outage over the past day? A hacking group launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against the service with the explicit purpose of taking it offline and disrupting gamers.

DDoS is a form of attack that floods a server with requests to the point that it cannot respond to legitimate requests by users. These can be difficult to defend against depending on the size of the attack, as it mostly becomes about mitigation and redirecting illegitimate traffic. Consumer data stored on Xbox LIVE was not breached.

These kinds of attacks infamously brought down both Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network during the 2014 holiday season when millions of consumers were opening their new consoles and itching to get online, as the Inquisitr reported at the time. The attacks continued until the day after Christmas, when controversial technology personality Kim Dotcom paid off the Lizard Squad to cease the attacks so he could play Destiny.

Xbox' Phil Spencer at E3
Xbox Head Phil Spencer. [Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]

These kinds of attacks were repeated this past holiday season with little success against Xbox LIVE and PSN, but Steam did suffer some issues. However, cybersecurity is a constant back and forth, and the hackers appear to have found a new avenue of attack. Xbox LIVE's service was down briefly at the end of January and spotty for most of the month of February until yesterday's attack took it down for North America and most of Europe.

The motive for bringing down Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network with such attacks is nebulous at best. From the gamer and consumer perspective, it is a "jerk" move that harms them just as much, if not more, than the companies that are the target of the attacks. Meanwhile, the attackers in this instance claim they instigated the attack as a form of protest.

"We attacked Xbox to protest. Major companies like this have massive servers but no real protection. We want Xbox to update the protection they have, which isn't much," the hacker group told Newsweek.

However, this line of reasoning is scratched out with a subsequent statement that shows the hacker group did this as a form of self-promotion.

"[The Xbox attacks] also prove we do have as much power as we say we do, going out to the doubters," the group's representative told Newsweek. "[We could] honestly knock Xbox off the face of the Earth."

Microsoft and the team at Xbox are likely already working to prevent this same type of attack from bringing Xbox LIVE down again. There's always the next vulnerability to discover.

[Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]