UK teen arrested over Xbox and Playstation attacks, swatting

Police in the U.K. have arrested another man in connection with the disruption of Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s PlayStation Network over the Christmas period.

The 18-year-old was arrested near Liverpool on suspicion of hacking and also of “swatting” – the practice of calling armed police tactical units to a target’s house to address a made-up threat. It sounds as though the swatting target was in the U.S., as a spokesman for the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (Serocu) described “law enforcement forces in the United States receiving hoax calls via Skype for a major incident in which SWAT teams were dispatched.”

The arrested teenager is suspected of unauthorized access to computer material, unauthorized access “with intent to commit further offenses,” and threats to kill. Serocu seized “a number of electronic and digital devices” for examination. The unit worked with the FBI and the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (Titan Rocu) on the operation.

The “Lizard Squad” attacks on the gaming networks deliberately caused major disruption just as people were receiving consoles and games for Christmas, and were only called off when Mega entrepreneur Kim Dotcom offered the miscreants file hosting vouchers. According to security expert Brian Krebs, the attackers used a botnet based on compromised home routers to knock out Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.

This is the second arrest in connection with the attacks — a 22-year-old man called Vinnie Omari was arrested in London at the end of December. A Finnish 17-year-old by the name of Julius Kivimäki has also reportedly been interrogated over the attacks.

WatchESPN goes down during the Rose Bowl

WatchESPN, a service that allows cable subscribers to stream live sporting events on devices like Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, and iPhone and iPad, has been serving error messages instead of streaming live video on Thursday. The outage happened during the Rose Bowl, one of the most anticipated college football games of the year and the first of three college football playoff games streaming on WatchESPN.

Upset Oregon and Florida State fans aired their displeasure on Twitter.

Timothy Burke at Deadspin speculates that the issue has something to do with ESPN’s playlist, and that it’s not a content delivery network problem. This incident isn’t the first time WatchESPN has gone down under high strain.

[company]ESPN[/company] is aware of the issue and says it’s been “largely resolved on all platforms.” I can watch the stream in a browser, although I’m still having trouble connecting on Apple TV.

One thing is clear: If your team ends up making the championship, and you actually want to watch it, you might want to find a friend with cable.

Sony PSN still struggling in wake of Christmas DDoS attacks

Frustrated users were still taking to Twitter to complain and Sony’s Playstation Network support page still showed intermittent connectivity Monday night in the wake of a serious wave on attacks that took both Sony’s gaming service and Microsoft’s Xbox services offline on Christmas Day.

The denial of service attacks hit the companies where it hurt, affecting millions of customers as they were unwrapping new consoles and games, some of which needed to be connected to their respective networks to work. Microsoft’s Xbox site reports that the Xbox service is running as of Monday night, but the IGN and Maxim apps are experiencing problems, but the Sony network seems to have some deeper problems. A colleague of mine reports that he couldn’t connect his PS3.

We have reached out to Sony for comment, and will update the story if we hear back. The “Lizard Squad,” a group of hackers taking credit for the DDoS attacks, had said it was moving on to target Tor, the anonymous routing software, so it’s unclear if Sony is experiencing new attacks or continued trouble from the previous ones.

For those trying to get their Playstations back online, Sony is tweeting out a link so users can attempt to reconnect:

Hackers say Xbox/Playstation attacks are over, target Tor

Christmas Day gamers ran into problems connecting their Xbox or Playstation to the internet thanks to a denial of service attack, and the hackers that have claimed credit are now naming a new target: online anonymity software Tor.

A group operating under the name “Lizard Squadposted a series of tweets today about a planned zero-day attack, which target unnoticed weaknesses. In this case, that appears to be taking over the majority of Tor’s nodes: a series of points through which data sent over the Tor network travels. Tor protects users’ identities with these nodes, which obscure the origin of any data. Lizard Squad’s thought is if it controls enough of the nodes, information will no longer be anonymized.

As of this afternoon, Lizard Squad had about 3,000 nodes — nearly half of the 8,000 in existance, according to Gizmodo. But Redditors are questioning if the 3,000 nodes have enough weight to have any effect, as new nodes are vetted before they receive encrypted data.

Why is a hacker group interested in taking down software that has benefited countless other hackers? Lizard Squad posted a tweet documenting a possible motive:

This story is still developing, as Lizard Squad is working to gain more nodes. What has ended is the attack on Xbox and Playstation consoles. Lizard Squad thanked Kim Dotcom, who gave the group vouchers for his secure file hosting service Mega in exchange for ceasing the attack.

Microsoft embraces bitcoin payments for digital purchases

You can’t buy a Windows Phone with bitcoin, but now you can buy Minecraft for that phone with bitcoin. Microsoft announced today that it will now accept bitcoin (via BitPay) as a payment method for digital purchases, like Xbox games or Windows Phone apps. It’s limited right now to items that can only be purchased through your Microsoft Account and only for U.S. customers — a pretty common move for companies who are testing the cryptocurrency waters.

Microsoft’s Halo series may actually come to Showtime first

Microsoft’s (S MSFT) biggest foray into exclusive content may actually not be all that exclusive: The company is negotiating with Showtime about a partnership for its Steven Spielberg-produced Halo TV show, according to a Variety report. The deal could lead to episodes of the show first airing on Showtime, and then making their way to the Xbox, where Microsoft wants to add interactive features – something Microsoft executives somehow forgot to mention during a recent press event focused on their original content efforts. is coming to the Xbox One

Major League Baseball’s launched on Microsoft’s (S MSFT) Xbox One Tuesday, giving users of Microsoft’s new game console a way to watch live baseball games as well as replay full games from the archives. As always, blackout rules apply, and users need to have an Xbox Live Gold subscription as well as a Premium subscription — but if you are a cord cutter who want to follow your team from back home, this may be the best way to do it.