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PSN and Xbox Live hackers turn their attention to Tor

UPDATE: The Tor Project has tweeted out an official statement playing down the seriousness of the attacks:

This looks like a regular attempt at a Sybil attack: the attackers have signed up many new relays in hopes of becoming a large fraction of the network. But even though they are running thousands of new relays, their relays currently make up less than 1 percent of the Tor network by capacity. We are working now to remove these relays from the network before they become a threat, and we don’t expect any anonymity or performance effects based on what we’ve seen so far.

Our original story continues below.

While you’ve been tucking into your turkey and exchanging gifts with your nearest and dearest, hackers calling themselves the Lizard Group have been busy disrupting some of the Web’s most popular services: Online networks for both the Playstation and Xbox continue to experience problems, and the same cyber pirates now seem to have turned their attention to anonymous Internet platform Tor.

A tweet from the official Lizard Squad account confirmed that Tor was its new target on the day after Christmas. If the hackers are able to gain access to enough of the nodes (or relays) in Tor’s network it could possibly compromise the anonymity of the service. So far Tor has not made any official response but users are spotting evidence of trouble.

Related: Russia announces $111,000 bounty to identify Tor users

Bizarrely, it seems as though Megaupload founder and Internet pioneer Kim Dotcom may have been responsible for easing the strain on Sony and Microsoft’s gaming networks over the past 24 hours. As Yahoo reports, the Lizard Group says it turned its attention away from PSN and Xbox Live after Dotcom intervened with an offer of lifetime memberships to the Mega service.

Although the Lizard Squad says Sony and Microsoft are no longer under attack, the PlayStation Network remains unavailable at the time of writing. Xbox Live, meanwhile, appears to be back up, at least to an extent. With large swathes of the world currently away from their office desks due to the Christmas holidays, information is proving hard to come by — if you’re experiencing problems then the best sources for information are probably the official Twitter accounts @AskPlayStation and @XboxSupport.

The full extent of the hacking attack and its eventual consequences probably won’t become clear for a few days, but Christmas 2014 is certainly going to be remembered as a particularly notorious one in terms of online security exploits. As far as Tor is concerned, its Twitter feed remains quiet for the time being, though an attack had been expected a few days ago. If you wondering what on earth Tor is anyway, our beginner’s guide has you covered.

[Image courtesy of sycther5 / Shutterstock.com]