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Was Anonymous Behind Playstation Hack?

Members of the group Anonymous protest during Spain's film Goya Awards ceremony at Teatro Real in Madrid.11.
Javier Soriano
AFP/Getty Images
Members of the group Anonymous protest during Spain's film Goya Awards ceremony at Teatro Real in Madrid.11.

Ever since April 20, when someone hacked into Sony's Playstation Network and took off with its members' personal information that might have included credit card numbers, the group Anonymous has denied any involvement.

But earlier this week, Sony pointed the finger their way in a letter to Congress:

When Sony Online Entertainment discovered this past Sunday afternoon that data from its servers had been stolen, it also discovered that the intruders had planted a file on one of those servers named "Anonymous" with the words "We are Legion." Just weeks before, several Sony companies had been the target of a large-scale, coordinated denial of service attack by the group called Anonymous. The attacks were coordinated against Sony as a protest against Sony for exercising its rights in a civil action in the United States District Court in San Francisco against a hacker.

Shortly thereafter Anonymous Enterprises LLC in Bermuda, put out a press release denying any involvement, saying the group has never been known to steal credit card information.

"Whoever broke into Sony's servers to steal the credit card info and left a document blaming Anonymous clearly wanted Anonymous to be blamed for the most significant digital theft in history," they wrote. "No one who is actually associated with our movement would do something that would prompt a massive law enforcement response."

Here's where things get interesting: Today, the Financial Times reports that two "veterans of Anonymous" admitted to the paper that one or more members of Anonymous went further than the rest of the free-speech campaigners expected when they broke into the electronics company's network and stole account details, according to one person within the group."

As we've reported before, Anonymous is hard to describe. Some people call them a clan; others a group of hacker activists. What's fair to say is that the loose collection of sophisticated internet activists have launched a significant number of cyber attacks in support of total Internet and technological freedom.

For the most part, they attack by overwhelming servers with calls and bringing down sites. Or in the case of the Arab revolutions, they have claimed responsibility for defacing the sites of authoritarian governments. Most recently, the group exacted revenge by breaking into the servers of a security company that had vowed to unmask them.

What Sony claims is that Anonymous attacked their Playstation Network after Sony sued George Hotz, a 21-year-old who hacked into a Sony Playstation to unlock it. And it certainly is a cause Anonymous has championed.

But very early on, Anonymous said on its website that "for once we didn't do it." In an April 22 press release they said, "While it could be the case that other Anons have acted by themselves, AnonOps was not related to this incident and takes no responsiblity for it."

We've reached out to Anonymous for comment and we've yet to hear back, but when an organization is as decentralized as this one is, there are bound to be disagreements between members. That seems to be happening here, as this comment to the Financial Times suggests:

"If you say you are Anonymous, and do something as Anonymous, then Anonymous did it," said the hacker, who uses the online nickname Kayla. "Just because the rest of Anonymous might not agree with it, doesn't mean Anonymous didn't do it."

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.