April 5, 2011 at 6:49 PM ET
Anonymous — a hacker group that declared cyber war on Sony earlier this week — has reportedly stepped up their attacks on the tech giant, seeking personal information about executives and even information about their children.
As we reported yesterday, hacktivist group Anonymous announced Sunday it had deemed Sony's legal actions against hacker George Hotz and its other corporate behaviors an "unforgivable offense against free speech and internet freedom." And in a video released to YouTube, the group threatened: "You will feel the wrath of Anonymous," and promised to take down the company's websites and related networks.
And it appears the group has kept that promise.
Though it has yet to be officially confirmed, it seems Anonymous waged Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks on Monday and Tuesday that have intermittently taken down websites such as Sony.com and PlayStation.com and interrupted PlayStation 3 owners' ability to access the PlayStation Network.
When I contacted Sony for a comment Tuesday, a representative released this official response regarding the ongoing outages:
"We are currently investigating, including the possibility of targeted behavior of an outside party. If this is indeed caused by such act, we want to once again thank our customers who have borne the brunt of the attack through interrupted service. Our engineers are working to restore and maintain the services, and we appreciate our customers' continued support."
And now, in day two of this epic Hackers vs. Sony conflict, things appear to have turned even more ugly.
According to the PlayStation Lifestyle website, some Anonymous members have begun seeking out personal information about company executives and their families and encouraged others to do so as well.
In the group'sIRC (Internet Relay Chat) site, a member announced his creation of the #sonyrecon channel "for people to gather and contribute dox (personal documentation), and work towards a common goal of finding and information and detailing useful targets."
And it appears the group has quickly uncovered some Sony employees' family records and personal details.
Having perused the online document where Anonymous is collecting all this personal information (easy enough to find with some sleuthing), the group has compiled details about Sony group executive Robert S. Wiesenthal (including his address and apparently his ex-wife's name), as well as information about Sony executive vice president Nicole Seligman and Sony of America CEO Howard Stringer.
During its hunt for personal details, one group member reportedly complained: "No one found ANY info on Stringers kids?"
The names of his two children and Wiesenthal's son have now been included in the Anonymous document (assuming the information is correct).
While, personally, I find genuinely compelling arguments on both sides of the hacking debate (see this PC World article for an overview), these efforts to collect and spread personal information about children and family members are appalling.
Granted, all reports suggest that Anonymous is a very loosely knit group and it seems unlikely anyone is really in charge here and capable of reigning in its more extreme factions. As my own visit to the #sonyrecon and #opsony IRC channel today confirmed, pretty much anyone can drop in there and make suggestions, no matter how mean or foolhardy.
Still, if this is the route Anonymous is going to take to help the "innocent people" it claims to be sticking up for, everyone involved has to ask themselves ... Have they become something worse than what it is they claim they're fighting?
It is unclear what will happen, if anything, with this personal information (some of which was already, no doubt, floating about the Internet). But PlayStation Lifestyle reports that members of Anonymous have suggested some curious (if confusing) methods of attacking their foes such as:
Make a ad in the “free stuff” section, or in “erotic services” and “casual encounters” as is evident here there are many horny men who will relentlessly pursue someone who they believe to be 19/f.
STD Postcards – send one of these e-postcards notifying the target that one of their previous sexual partners has a STD. Makes for an uncomfortable wait for them. Alternatively call an AIDS hotline and ask them to anonymously tell the target they could have HIV, thats a 6 month wait until the test comes back.
Meanwhile, Anonymous is, apparently, trying to organize a sit-in at Sony stores on April 16 via this Facebook page. And while Anonymous certainly has found its fair share of supporters who say they're willing to join the protest, plenty of others are finding the group's tactics obnoxious, mean-spirited and perhaps inspiring in exactly the opposite way Anonymous would like.
As one poster wrote on the group's Facebook sit-in page: "So I've decided I'm going to spend a large amount of money at a Sony store on the 17th ... much more than usual."
For related news, check out: