Ex-hacker comments on how PSN attack may have gone down

Sony hasn't explained how attack took PSN offline

The PlayStation Network is back up for most gamers around the world, but Sony has yet to give an explanation as to why and how the attack brought down the service for over a month.

Former hacker and lead architect at Mykonos Software, Kyle Adams, spoke with PCWorld about how the hack may have occurred. Adams suggests Sony may have left its doors wide open for attack by using outdated software.

Was the PlayStation Blog a gateway?

Hackers likely gained access using an SQL injection attack, according to Adams. In other words, hackers inserted malicious code into the database, and the server erroneously executed the code. This allowed the hackers to gain access to the server.

Adams suggests that the attackers may have entered the server through Sony's blog. Sony's blog was using an outdated version of Wordpress, which has known SQL injection vulnerabilities.

"It seems likely to me that Sony got attacked through its web services first, such as the blog, and it opened up the doors to the rest of Sony's servers," Adams told PCWorld.

The attack on Sony's PSN was an "advanced persistent threat," which, as the name suggests, is a series of ongoing, planned attacks. Each planned attack opens up more and more doors, allowing the hackers to advance further into the server.

Hackers on Sony's servers for months

"The depths they went indicates that this hack wasn't arbitrary," Adams said.

He explains that these types of attacks can go on for weeks or even months without being discovered, and that APTs typically involve attempts to obtain valuable data.

"They perceive value in the site they're going after," Adams said. "There's a whole lot of value in the data Sony had. There's always a buyer out there."

Adams did stress that he believes Anonymous had nothing to do with the attack, and notes that the group has never hacked and taken personal information in the past.

Adams seemed to concede, however, that Sony's claim that Anonymous may have made the hacker's jobs easier with their DDoS attacks has some validity.

"It's possible for another group to go through an open backdoor," he said.

For more tech news and commentary, follow Ed on Twitter at @edoswald and on Facebook.

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