Apr 28, 2011

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Is Anonymous Fighting For Gamers, Or Just Hackers?

Is Anonymous Fighting For Gamers, Or Just Hackers?

As everyone knows, the PlayStation Network has been down for the past week. Sony has issued a few press releases stating that the PSN was shut down due to an external intrusion. Gamers know that the “hacktivist” group Anonymous was behind a previous shut down, but has since claimed that they are not behind this attack. Obviously, we can’t be 100% sure if they are or aren’t behind the attacks, but we do know that they have targeted Sony. So this has me wondering: what’s Anonymous’ goal, and will they ultimately aim their hacking towards other game companies?

This all started with two hackers by the name of George Hotz (aka GeoHotz) and Fail0verflow. The two were able to hack into the PS3, discovering the root key, which basically unlocked the PS3 and would allow the user to install any OS or even create homebrew programs and games. The side effect of this hack was that it allowed players to play pirated games on their system as well as allowing them to mod online gameplay. Sony eventually went after the hackers with a lawsuit (which they settled) for violating the Terms of Agreement. At this point, Anonymous came into the picture and issued a statement that they would be going after Sony for “censoring” Hotz. In their initial statement they claimed that they were attacking Sony in order to fight for the rights of the consumer.

After Anonymous issued that statement, they shut down PSN (and the US PlayStation Blog website). One member spoke out regarding the attack, saying:

“So far, all Sony has seen from us is poking and prodding. A simple salute to let them know, we’re coming. Make no mistake, what you saw today and thought to be frustration is merely preparation for what’s to come. We said, expect us. Counting us out would be a mistake.”

These events occurred earlier in the month, and now, only a few weeks later, we see the entire shut down of the PSN. The first shut down was to get back at Sony and to let them know what Anon is capable of, but who eventually suffered from their attack, and who is suffering now? We, the gamers, the people who also paid for their systems and games and who also want to have the freedom to play their games online. Anonymous sees the majority of the gaming population who suffered from the first attack and who are currently are without PSN, as “collateral damage.” Kind of hypocritical, don’t you think?

I understand that Anonymous and other hackers want to stick up for each other, want to have freedom of information, and want to see Sony pay for going after Hotz.  But it’s not like Hotz went to jail for it, and in the end, he settled with Sony. More, the hackers seem to think they are fighting for us consumers. Even before Anonymous stepped in, the Hotz and Fail0verflow hack were negatively affecting gamers’ online play, and developers whose games they were pirating. So is Anonymous saying that’s OK?

I personally have no problem with someone going out of their way to modify a system they purchased to do whatever they want with it. However, releasing how to hack the system so that everyone can mod the PS3, thus opening up the system to piracy and affecting some online games: that’s crossing the line.  In my opinion, that’s also breaking the law.

How rampant was the piracy? I have no idea, but the piracy and the online issues were  big enough to cause Sony to step in to try to put a stop to it. As soon as someone’s hacking starts to affect my gameplay, that’s where I draw the line and I’m sure many PS3 owners felt the same way. Remember the Halo 2 hacking issue? At first it was only a few people who had super speed and were able to get automatic headshots. Then it became one-in-every-ten games, and then it was every-other game. It got so out of hand that the majority of gamers stopped playing Halo 2 online completely. Maybe Sony saw the root key hack as an issue that could eventually snow ball into the Halo 2 fiasco, so can anyone really blame them for taking action quickly before it was too late?