PlayStation Network recovers from outage -- or does it?

Sony may have spoken too soon

Sony may have spoken too soon when it declared early on Saturday that its PlayStation Network was stabilizing after an attack brought it down on Christmas Day and kept it unavailable for most of Friday.

The company announced at around 4 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time via its Ask PlayStation Twitter account that its PS4, PS3 and Vita network services were "gradually coming back online" and by late morning the PlayStation U.S. support website showed the PlayStation Network status as "online."

However, by early afternoon the status of the PlayStation Network had been changed to "offline" again, and the latest post on the Ask PlayStation Twitter account stated that Sony engineers were looking into reports that "some users are experiencing sign-in issues on PS4 and PS3."

Moreover, at around 3 p.m., Catherine Jensen, Vice President of Consumer Experience at Sony Computer Entertainment America, acknowledged in a blog post that the PlayStation Network had been under attack over the past two days.

"The video game industry has been experiencing high levels of traffic designed to disrupt connectivity and online gameplay. Multiple networks, including PSN, have been affected over the last 48 hours. PSN engineers are working hard to restore full network access and online gameplay as quickly as possible," she wrote.

Jensen also apologized to the many disappointed gamers who received Sony consoles on Christmas. "If you received a PlayStation console over the holidays and have been unable to log onto the network, know that this problem is temporary and is not caused by your game console." The company will post updates about its progress solving the issue on its @AskPlayStation Twitter account and on the PlayStation blog.

Hacker group Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for the outages that hit PlayStation Network and Xbox Live on Christmas Day, saying it had launched successful distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against the Sony and Microsoft online gaming platforms. However, on Friday the group said via its Twitter account that it had stopped the DDoS attacks and turned its attention to Tor, a service that lets users surf the web, post content online and engage in Internet communications anonymously.

"To clarify, we are no longer attacking PSN or Xbox. We are testing our new Tor 0day," Lizard Squad tweeted, an assurance it reiterated on Saturday.

Tor later put out a statement confirming its service was under fire, and described the action as a "Sybil attack."

"The attackers have signed up many new relays in hopes of becoming a large fraction of the network. But even though they are running thousands of new relays, their relays currently make up less than 1% of the Tor network by capacity," Tor's statement reads.

Tor said it was working to remove the relays from its network, and that it didn't expect "any anonymity or performance effects" on its service.

Meanwhile, Microsoft acknowledged on Friday that Xbox Live suffered disruptions on Christmas Day but said it had restored the gaming platform's core services. However, the Xbox Live status page showed at midday Saturday that the service was "limited" and listed several applications that had broken down. Later on Saturday afternoon, Microsoft added that the "social and gaming" services of Xbox Live were also malfunctioning, affecting members' ability to play jointly online.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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