Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Some Things That The Lizard Squad Situation Can Teach Us

If you tried to play any Xbox360/XboxOne/PS3/PS4 games with an online component on Christmas day or a day later, you may have been one of the many gamers worldwide that found themselves feeling like a modern gaming version of the guy from Cast Away. This is most especially true (and somewhat cruel) if you got some of the hottest new games/consoles as Christmas presents. Now that most of the dust has settled, we have to admit that even though it was hell on earth for some people, there are some good things to learn about this whole DDOS attack fiasco. As you read, look for the lessons in red even though you may disagree with some of them.

frustrated mario

First, take a moment to check your entire game library...

If you take some time to look at your library of games, there is a high probability that you have a lot of games that you haven't really touched in a while even though you haven't finished them. You know why is that? It is because those abandoned games are mostly offline and part of you doesn't want that as you are accustomed to playing online and making progress in order to stay in par with your peers be it in aspects like your character level, rank, equipment/items or just the social value of the online experience.

The thing about all this is that competition/cooperative online based gaming is not the only type of gaming that exists and you may have forgotten that even if the online service is off, you are not necessarily stranded as you may have some offline options that otherwise you would be missing out because of the way you pressure yourself to an online only experience. It is good to let go every now and then and enjoy all the games you have even when they are not an always connected (and prone to attacks) experience. Of course before you scoff at the screen and say that The Gamertologist is an antisocial prick, know that this does not imply that you should just become an offline gamer, it just suggests that there are more games out there that you can play to make the best of such a situation where the online service fails because of stuff like the recent DDOS attacks. Well... now that the so called "Distributed Denial of Service" attack has been mentioned, there is another important thing to point out.

army of orcs

A DDOS attack can be more serious than you think...

The first time we saw the explanation of what happened to the two big online gaming networks during the attack, many people classified it as a simple thing that shouldn't take a lot of time to fix, when in fact recovery can be pretty difficult once the attack happens. There isn't a magical instantaneous fix to a DDOS attack and this is because this type of attack is relentless. You can either prevent it before it happens at full force or suffer the consequences.

Picture this, imagine that you have your own small server with a service that accepts let's say 5000 people connected at once. Now imagine that a group of hackers start sending 5000 simultaneous connections to your server and fill each and every one of your available spaces so now your server thinks it is full and doesn't let anybody else in. You then get aware of the situation and you summon your security crew in order to fight back to dismiss those fake connections, but each time your people manage to clear some of them, more keep coming.

This is the equivalent of a handful of knights fighting an endless horde of orcs on a bridge. Unless you somehow close that bridge they will keep coming, but you won't be able to do that unless you can slay a great number of them and win some much needed time in order to been able to run and set the barricades. So once it happens you can only destroy the bridge (shut off the service) and re-build it (bring the service back again) once the battle is over.


But those orcs aren't even supposed to be able to get near you...

O.k we now agreed that the attacks were not as simple as we thought, but what about the companies themselves? Why is their security not strong enough to prevent or at least minimize the impact of these kind of attacks? The Christmas day incident was completely unnecessary in so many ways that it isn't even funny. This is even more disturbing if we consider that Lizard Squad gave a warning almost a month before Christmas day, so they were either too skeptic or just too lazy. All This means that companies are low-balling their online services, attempting to win a million while spending a cent.

If they are acting like this, then we must pressure them to put some more effort into their network security systems, just so that we don't have to live through those types of annoyances on a service that isn't free. Now on the broader side of things,what's really worrying about the situation is that these types of incidents shows a pretty weak side of the so called digital gaming era and this can mean only one thing...


"Online Digital only" total dominance has been set back for a while because of the attacks.

The lizards have managed to make a really nasty dent the iron clad trust that consumers used to have on these services and that means that the online digital only gaming environment is not be the safe happy place we thought it was. It has become a very nice and convenient service yes, but it has shown that if we ever fully dependent on it there is such a high risk that you may wake up one morning and find out that you have lost all of your games because X group of hackers woke up on the wrong side of their beds.

What Lizard Squad did can never be justified, but we can still at least take the few things that we could learn from the situation and give them some thought. It not only makes you a smarter consumer, but also makes you a wiser gamer and a more conscious tech user that wont be swayed by fads or smoke and mirrors. In any way, we as consumers have to be alert, not only in order to be ready for these kinds of happenings, but also to know the underlying causes and fight against them.

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