INTERNET

The Notorious Hacking Group Lizard Squad Gets Wiped From the Internet

Oct 02, 2014 at 10:52 AM ET

There are hackers that steal money and hackers that steal information.

And then there’s Lizard Squad. Over the last few months, the shady, Anonymous-style hacking collective has been wreaking its own kind of havoc—mainly, it appears, out of boredom. Its motives have never really been clear, but its goals were consistent: Launch cyberattacks against popular gaming servers and websites, then brag about it online.

It managed to hack into both PlayStation Network and XBox Live, shutting down the networks for hours at a time. More recently, it shut down FIFA and Call of Duty. At one point, it even shut down the Vatican’s website.

Most of the attacks only lasted for a few hours each, but while the games were down, players ranted on social media. You can understand why. Call of Duty alone has 100 million players. None of the gaming sites ever acknowledged Lizard Squad directly, but a few posted notices to their Twitter accounts that they were experiencing some technical difficulties. Most mainstream media seemed to ignore the attacks, but the gaming press was all over it through September.

In August, though, Lizard Squad upped the ante from mere online attacks on gamers. On Twitter, the group sent out a tweet claiming there were explosives on board a plane carrying Sony President John Smedley. After the airline received the threat, the pilots were forced to divert the plane to a nearby airport.

Yesterday, nearly two months after the attacks started, Twitter shut down the Lizard Squad account, which served as its main mouthpiece. It had over 55,000 followers. Its website, LizardSquad.com, appears to have been taken offline as well. The FBI has not commented publicly on the matter, but taken together, it seems plausible the government is involved. (In an apparently unrelated case, the FBI charged four men this week with allegedly hacking into XBox Live and stealing Microsoft trade secrets.)

Regardless, the gaming world is rejoicing online.

So who exactly is Lizard Squad?

Well, no really one knows, but it’s more than likely just a small group of basement-dwellers looking for a cheap laugh. Before the site was taken down, the Lizard Squad collective professed that its motive was originally “to see if we could evade being caught and to experience the raw thrill of anarchy.”

They add: “We’ve been called everything from an organized criminal ‘gang’ to complete a**holes, really we are just a bunch of guys with too much free time.” He said that at any given time, the group consisted of about five guys.

A few days ago, a member of the group of the group did an interview with Drama Alert, a YouTube show with about 80,000 subscribers. The caller never gives his name, but proudly lists out the group’s exploits, including the bomb threat. He sounds young and American, but otherwise doesn’t let on too many details about who he is or where he’s calling from.

The show’s host, who goes by DJ Keemstar, asks the man toward the end of the segment, “Are you worried that you’re going to get caught?”

His response: “No.”

Hacking a gaming server and shutting it down is illegal (and definitely annoying for the gamers), but bomb threats on airplanes tend to grab the feds’ attention. (A former flight attendant was sentenced last year to 18 months in prison for making fake bomb threats.) A day after the Lizard Squad bomb threat, Sony announced that the FBI was handling the matter, and many assumed it was only a matter of time before whoever was behind Lizard Squad would get caught.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the account suspension, but governments routinely ask Twitter to shut down accounts for a variety of reasons. For a hacking collective like Lizard Squad, Twitter is an excellent marketing channel: It can quickly incite its followers to join in on an attack, and it can gloat about it after.

In the grand scheme of cyberattacks and illegal behavior, Lizard Squad’s antics rank pretty low. But at least in the case of the bomb threat, it shows how easy it can be for someone to disrupt daily life while veiled behind an anonymous online persona.