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Gamers frustrated as Xbox Live, PlayStation Network experience network problems

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By Ben Brumfield
CNN

(CNN – Dec. 26, 2014) — It’s getting there. Sony’s PlayStation networks were still down; Xbox is mostly up, but some functions are limited, their service websites said early Friday.

The buzz in the online gaming scene is that they could be all the way back up soon, after an iconic gamer claims to have intervened to end a alleged hack that inundated them.

Gamers eager to battle online opponents on Xbox and PSN networks tossed their consoles to the ground on Christmas Day — one of the busiest gaming days of the year — while two hacker groups allegedly duked it out on social media over the gaming systems’ connections.

One, Lizard Squad, said it fought to torpedo the networks. The other, The Finest, said it aimed to get them afloat again by exposing the aggressors to law enforcement.

The groups posted messages to Twitter. Neither had a verified account, and CNN cannot confirm their identities nor their claims.

Game face

A Twitter account in Lizard Squad’s name claimed responsibility for spoiling the Yuletide fun — and the gaming businesses’ networks.

It said it was “smacking” the two systems, apparently one of several attacks in December. The group took responsibility for keeping each network down earlier this month on separate occasions.

On Thursday, the group asked for retweets in exchange for ending the problem, but then, late Christmas Eve, things got personal against the other group, The Finest.

“Operations will continue tomorrow. As a result, the group of kiddies who think they are ‘the finest’ will be proven incapable,” Lizard Squad said in a tweet.

Game off

The alleged hack could have been a distributed denial of service attack.

That’s when hackers flood networks with illegitimate traffic, overwhelming the ability of the servers. Gamers were able to play games offline, but couldn’t communicate with other players or make use of network functions.

Hundreds of users took to Twitter to report problems with the systems, which lasted much of the day.

“With the #Xbox hacking shutdown going on I’m watching my 15 year old nephew meltdown: ‘I’ve got nothing else to do!!!!'” Jim Crilley Jr. wrote on the social messaging site.

Game on

Then, in the wee hours of Friday, gaming demigod Kim Dotcom with nearly 400K Twitter followers let out a cry of celebration on his verified account.

“I’m online playing #Destiny on XboxOne now. Lizard Squad must have stopped the attack,” he posted at 3:45 a.m. ET. He had been begging them to drop it, even bribing them with vouchers.

An account in their name tweeted back at him that they would take him up on his offer and stop the attack.

“Thanks @KimDotcom for the vouchers — you’re the reason we stopped the attacks,” they said. Part of the deal entails that Lizard Squad not attack PSN or Xbox networks ever again.

Late Thursday the group claimed to have stopped the attack and said that continuing outages were due to its aftermath.

Kim Dotcom messaged users to check on progress.

He posted a tweet asking them to retweet it, if they could access the gaming networks, and favorite it, if they couldn’t. The retweets were ahead by double early Friday.

Game over?

The Finest, a group of security counter-hackers, thanked Kim Dotcom for cutting the deal, but continued pursuing Lizard Squad.

They tracked down IP addresses for the alleged culpable hackers, posted them online and on Twitter addressed at police and private investigators then asked users to retweet them.

A handful of alleged Lizard hackers were spread across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to The Finest’s site. They described them as youthful pranksters.

They threatened to keep pursuing punishment through the legal system in a statement.

“On our behalf, we would like to apologize to those who had to experience the misfortune of being harassed by these kids. Criminals Never Win,” it read. “FinestSquad will always find a way to take you down and take legal actions.”

Lizard Squad said on its Twitter account that it was going dark just before midnight Eastern and pinned the tweet to the top of its feed.

The Finest took credit for the Lizards’ dropping out of sight.

The Lizards took a jab at them on their website, saying none of its members had been arrested.

Stupid coincidence?

The network downtime started just hours after Microsoft’s Xbox video store started to stream the Seth Rogen comedy “The Interview.” The movie was made by Sony Pictures, a sibling of Sony’s PlayStation division.

Sony was the victim of a massive cyberattack in late November that was widely believed to be motivated, at least in part, by North Korea’s anger over “The Interview,” which depicts the assassination of Kim Jong Un.

But there was no indication that Thursday’s problems were in any way connected to the movie’s digital release. Other participating distributors of the movie, such as YouTube, were unaffected. And PlayStation is not participating in the release.

A Sony Pictures spokesman deferred to PlayStation for comment about the outage.