PSN’s slow recovery from DDoS attacks highlights bigger problem

The recent DDoS attacks have been a cause for alarm across the Internet. Apparently, we all now live in a world where teenagers from Finland can shut down our services for kicks and still feel safe enough because of foreign extradition laws. Unfortunately, those not savvy to the actual goings on of these networks are left with alarming news stories about how PSN, Xbox Live, and other networks were “hacked,” and, with no one else to blame, take to Twitter to unleash whatever verbal hailstorms their hearts desire upon Sony, Microsoft, and other respective companies affected by these attacks.

Hacking, however, is not what has been going on. The attacks are claimed by a group called Lizard Squad, and they are DDoS attacks, which, as PSU previously explained, are quite different from hacking and pose very little threat to personal information. Even so, they can be devastating: hacking is like breaking into a building and sometimes stealing confidential files, whereas a DDoS attack is like shutting down the breakers and holding the entire building hostage without walking inside.

The aforementioned teenager from Finland claims to have performed these DDoS attacks to expose security vulnerabilities in these gaming networks. That makes little sense, as there is currently very little any company, regardless of its wealth or intelligence, can do to effectively defend against a DDoS attack on its network. In other words, there really is no security to possess a vulnerability in the first place. Even so, the teen may have unwittingly highlighted another issue.

One of the biggest things that Xbox fanatics like to throw at PlayStation gamers is that Microsoft’s network is superior to PlayStation’s. Indeed, when Lizard Squad ceased the DDoS attacks against Sony and Microsoft, PlayStation’s network remained unusable for hours and hours later. Even when Sony itself claimed that the network was slowly returning, most gamers appeared unable to sign on. In comparison, Xbox Live pretty much sprung back to life.

With DDoS attacks, the only thing that people can point to (besides the attackers themselves) is how a company handles the attack. Network recovery is part of that. Undoubtedly, Sony has been working very hard to make sure its network regains stability, but the fact that it recovered in a slow, belaboured crawl as opposed to Xbox Live’s relative kip-up is not lost on many gamers, especially those Xbox fanatics.

The DDoS attack is not PSN’s only problem. PlayStation’s mobile app has proven to be flaky for some gamers, and many gamers are experiencing odd problems such as minutes-long lag time between a message notification and actual receipt of the corresponding message. Some gamers have been kicked out of games in progress, and though it is doing spectacularly these days in comparison, who can so soon forget the disastrous launch of DRIVECLUB?

In any competition, it is important to recognize one’s own weaknesses so that they can be addressed. With that said, and though it may pain many PlayStation fans to accept, PSN has some way to go to match Xbox Live’s reliability. Those 300,000-odd servers that Microsoft touted non-stop in 2013, along with other things, do add up to a stronger network than PlayStation Network currently is. Those PlayStation fans, however, see value in PlayStation beyond a bit of maintenance downtime. That value lies in PlayStation’s games, in its gaming quality, in its gamer-first philosophy, and in the actual monetary value of the system. To them, all of that is worth a little wait, especially under the assumption that improvements are on the way.

That does not mean, however, that Sony should waste that trust that gamers have put into its service. There have been talks about strengthening both PSN and PlayStation Plus in recent months. With the trouble that PSN has given company and customers alike lately, one would hope that whoever is pitching these improvements should require no further evidence. Microsoft has been on a roll through the holidays, and though things look sunnier for PlayStation going into 2015, Sony will need to give its customers the best experience it can if it hopes to stay on top.

At the same time, gamers should be careful about the blame they throw around. It is not Sony’s fault that PSN suffered DDoS attacks, nor that it could not defend against the DDoS attacks. The recovery process, however–that is something that Sony can change, and blaming Sony will accomplish little. Rather, they should encourage Sony to strengthen its network and correct the issues that interfere with PlayStation’s user experience, and the launches of games like DRIVECLUB. They should be willing to let Sony know that though they enjoy PlayStation, they deserve a better network that does not cause them issues or kick them out of games, and is resilient enough to recover from uncontrollable situations within a reasonable amount of time.

They shouldn’t throw Twitter temper tantrums. They should just let Sony know that they deserve a better PlayStation.