With the Lizard Squad DDoS attacks of last Christmas still lingering in the minds of many online gamers, a new hacking group is warning of a similar situation this Christmas period. The group has already claimed responsibility for a number of outages across Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Grand Theft Auto Online and even Steam – but who exactly is this group, and what can we do if PSN and Xbox Live does go down this Christmas? Read on to find out. See also: Most anticipated games of 2016

Who is Phantom Squad?

There’s a new group of DDoS (distributed denial of service) ‘hackers’ on the scene threatening to take down Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network over the Christmas period, in an attack similar to the Lizard Squad DDOS attacks which took place over the Christmas period last year.

The group, which goes by the name of ‘Phantom Squad’ has already been busy – the group claimed to be responsible for a number of DDoS attacks on a number of gaming-related services over the past few weeks including PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, Grand Theft Auto Online and Steam, as well as a number of other online games. Although with this being said, there were no confirmed DDoS attacks on any of the named networks, although Microsoft did acknowledge ‘issues’ with its Xbox Live service.

Most recently on 15 December 2015, the group has claimed responsibility for taking Reddit offline. The site went offline for a brief period of time and, according to the Reddit status website, the problem was due to its servers coming “under extreme load” which is a common characteristic with DDoS attacks, the favoured style of attacks for many hacking groups.

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Although the group has similarities with Lizard Squad, the two groups appear to be completely different – and even at loggerheads. Phantom Squad had publicly threatened to ‘declare war’ on Lizard Squad if their tweet got 100 retweets, although at the time of writing the tweet had been deleted.

But why is Phantom Squad going to take down Xbox Live and PlayStation Network at, arguably, the most popular time of year? The group decided to answer the question with a tweet: “I get asked a lot on why we do this? Why do we take down PSN and Xbox Live? Because cyber security does not exist.”

So, in summary, we might not be able to play our brand new PlayStation or Xbox games over the Christmas period to simply prove a point about cyber security. Cheers guys.  

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What to do if PSN and Xbox Live go down this Christmas

So, what can we do if Phantom Squad is successful and we can’t play our favourite online games over the Christmas period? Essentially, there’s not a lot anybody apart from Sony and Microsoft can do, however there is a way to keep up to date on the status of the online services.

We like to use a website called DownDetector, which, utilising user reports, reports the status of major online services including Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. It doesn’t only let you know the status of the service though; if there are problems with the service, the site will identify and display the most reported problems that the public are facing.

Of course if you aren’t a fan of DownDetector, you could always head over to the PlayStation Network Service Status page and the Microsoft Xbox Live Status page for the official status of each online service.

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