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Who Hacked Sony & the U.S. Senate?

Image representing Sony as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

With the recent hacking of high profile sites like those belonging to the U.S. Senate and Sony, many are confused as to who, exactly, is behind the recent rash of attacks. While the notorious hacking group Anonymous was first implicated, it appears a new group of miscreants has arisen to steal headlines.

Going by the name “LulzSec,” this new group seems to take their mission quite seriously, even though they claim to do it only for the “lulz,” or laughs. The name LulzSec is short for Lulz Security and the group features a logo of a caricature wearing a monocle and top hat, while holding a glass of wine. While the group has been targeting high-profile victims, they seem to take a caviar and lighthearted attitude regarding their exploits. They often poke fun at the vulnerabilities they employ to gain access to sites and tend to leave humorous messages for their victims. Frequently, these messages are accompanied by a crude ASCII portrait of a boat, and their website plays the theme from the television series “The Love Boat.” While the identity of group members is not known, the magnitude of the high-profile attacks seems to confirm that the group is comprised of skilled and knowledgeable individuals.

The first known attack staged by the group occurred in May 2011, when they hacked a PBS site and posted a story stating that rapper Tupac Shakur was alive and living in obscurity in New Zealand resort town. The story spread quickly via Twitter and other social media, creating a highly embarrassing situation for PBS site administrators. In June 2011, the group went on to allegedly attack several big name sites, including Sony and the U.S. Senate, alongside attacks against smaller niche sites, such as online gaming sites for Eve Online and Minecraft. The group has also claimed responsibility for hacking the CIA, the British NHS and a myriad of other big name and high profile companies. The method the group uses to choose its targets seems to be unfocused, with some targets appearing to be political or ethical, while others appear to be completely random in nature.

The group seems to be content merely hacking and mocking their victims without seeming to steal data for criminal purposes or monetary gain. Since there seems to be no physical or monetary gain for the group, they have created stirs of controversy in the information security field as to whether the group is truly nefarious, or if the group is merely raising information security awareness in a nefarious manner. While their true motives seem inherently chaotic, there is some good coming out of the attacks in the form of information security awareness.

Even though no one is likely to openly praise the group for their illegal tactics, many are praising the way the recent attacks have brought lax network security practices into the limelight. Many of the avenues of attack used by the group could have been prevented entirely via regular patches and other industry standard security policies and practices. Due to these factors, the group has brought the flippant attitude many companies take regarding web security to the forefront, inviting scrutiny into business security practices.

Not much is known for certain about this new and seemingly chaotic group of hackers overall, but they are certainly attracting the interest to the field of network security. While LulzSec openly states they are only hacking for the Lulz, most other hackers would be exploiting these vulnerabilities with criminal intent or monetary gain in mind. While this particular group may not be serious in nature, it is hopeful that serious information security reform may arise from this situation. After all, it is better to be hacked for the Lulz than it is to be hacked for true criminal intent.

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