Late 2009, I was hanging out with a few friends in class at our Middle School. It was cold outside during that time of the year, nothing much to do besides sit around in the house and play video games [insert praise for Nintendo’s GameCube]. The few friends I was sitting with were talking about a game they were all apparently playing online together, and I was the only one who wasn’t getting in on the action. I grew up a bit poor and didn’t get to enjoy the same things others did, so the game “Modern Warfare 2” (Call of Duty) was news to me, and everybody around me was raving about it. I didn’t understand why, but I soon would.
A few days go by, and I get an invitation from a friend of mine, for a birthday party. I’m not normally the type to go to parties, or social gatherings of any type for that matter, but, I knew he didn’t have many other friends and I decided to show up and support the kid. Little did I know that when I walked in the door, I would be sucked into the most intense addiction I’ve ever had, only moments later.
I was challenged to a “1v1” against one of the party-goers, on Call of Duty MW2. I’m not one to turn down competition, so I jumped at the opportunity. Trying to be ethical, I intently watched my own half of the split-screen as I “ran” around the map, trying to unmercifully destroy my opponent at this game that I had never played before, on a console that I had only owned myself for a few months (a birthday gift – it came with Uncharted for free!). My movements were child-like, my strategy was lackluster, and my performance? Absolutely horrid. I think I was beaten 0-7 before my opponent called it a game, due to how god-awful I was, undoubtedly unworthy of wielding the mighty Scar and Desert Eagle combo I had chosen.
By the time I left, that night, I had a new love. I had to get myself a copy of MW2, and had to spend as much time as I could fathom until I got good enough to beat that kid at the next time we faced each other. I was addicted, both to the game, and to the idea that I could play online against people in other places in the world! Surely, if I could get good enough, I could become a ‘professional’ YouTuber like whiteboy7thst, or maybe I could join Optic Gaming and compete for real money and trophies. That was the mindset I was in – I had a long road ahead, and I was R-E-A-D-Y.
Every single day I would play, and my family would watch. Soon after, my brother was loving it too, and I let him play every now and then, but, as my addiction grew, the time I allowed him to play decreased. I was selfish about my usage of the Playstation 3, so he got an XBox 360 for his birthday, along with a brand new copy of COD Black Ops, the newest release in the COD series at the time. As soon as we tried playing on different consoles at the same time, however, we found out that our home network could not handle both. We had to split the time – I would get two hours and then he would get two hours.
The (NOT) Not so Bummer ‘Summer:’
It’s mid-April, 2011. I’m in the thick of what I considered to be my “Future” with the goal of getting so good at Call of Duty that I would end up playing professionally one day. I was addicted and I loved it, no matter how many controllers I hurled at the wall and watched as they exploded into a billion pieces. I must have been on my 6th controller, in a year and a half, by this time. I was passionate and nothing could stop me from getting my “K/D” above 0.98, until the morning of April 20th. I woke up to find that even though I could load up my console and connect to the internet, all of the sudden, I couldn’t access PSN anymore. How can that be? PSN was free, so it wasn’t like I had run out of Playstation+ or anything (Thanks alot, Sony). I had to forfeit my first “Shift” to my brother while I figured out what was going on.
A few days earlier, the Hacking group, Anonymous, had began attacking Sony’s Playstation Network with a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), in an attempt to keep their servers down. This was Anonymous’ attempt at retaliation for the lawsuit that had been brought upon hacker George Hotz (GeoHotz), for Jailbreaking the PlayStation 3. From what I remember, the connection was live, but, performance was down from the norm, but I was completely unaware of the attack to begin with. During the DDoS attacks, Sony had decided to shut down the PlayStation network itself. Many believed that this was due to the DDoS – it was not. An unknown hacker group had taken advantage of the attack on Sony by performing one of their own. This unknown group had stolen the credentials of 77 million PSN users. Anonymous had openly admitted to the DDoS, but, denied the accusations against them for the theft of data (https://www.networkworld.com/article/2202453/anonymous—for-once-we-didn-t-do-it-.html)
The playstation network was down for what felt like an eternity. Every day I was miserable as I could hear my brother down the hall murdering zombies with his friends, while I had to settle for playing offline games – I had rented a copy of SOCOM 4, and I had just bought a copy of Homefront. I attempted to keep myself occupied by watching YouTube videos of people playing Homefront online (something I was foaming at the mouth to do as well). I couldn’t stand playing games offline anymore, I had been ruined by the social nature of playing against others online, while getting called names like “Camper”,”F*ggot”, and “Tryhard.” I would try to sign in each and every morning, and whenever it failed every day, I would go online, using the console’s horrendous built-in web browser, and look for updates from Sony – no word came until much later.
I was so upset at Anonymous. I didn’t know much about the “group” but I had liked them beforehand, and all I knew now was that they were “idiots” for having taken away what I had “loved” so much. I was so addicted that I (admittedly) may have cried once or twice during this time period, totally out of frustration. Not to mention, Black Ops was my favorite game by this time (and still is to this day). I knew nothing about the breach or the unknown group that had committed the crime, but, my view on Anonymous was never the same. I hated them.
About 18 days in, I got lucky – My brother went off to some bible camp, to be gone for the next two weeks. I was finally able to get my fix. I jumped on his XBox, and overcame the awkward, heavy, oddly shaped and apparently ergonomic design of the controller to make sure that I could at least jump online and satisfy the hunger I had for some more Black Ops! I played every single day, for so many hours, that it would hurt to blink by the time I stopped. I had actually gotten very good with an XBox controller, and wouldn’t mind paying for XBox live from that point on if it meant I got to play COD. I was considering turning in my playstation, to be honest. But just before I took that plunge, the PSN was back!
The best time I’ve ever wasted:
I had to sign on to verify that I was able to load up the game and see my beloved loadouts again. Oh, how I had missed my MP4, the ballistic knife, and most of all – the Famas! I never did play professionally – but I did keep playing call of duty for mind-numbing amounts of hours. I had logged more than 23 days worth of hours on Black Ops, another 21 days on MW3, and many many more between the following releases until I stopped playing like an addict when I went off to college a few years later
This might seem like a gaming story – but in reality, it was a career-defining moment for me. At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Fast forward, here I am studying Cybersecurity on a daily basis and working towards my own career in the field. When Anonymous had began the chain-reaction of attacks which forced Sony to bring down the PSN, I felt vengeful. This was the first time that hackers were really introduced to me, where I was at the receiving end of their abuse. After some time had passed, I was actively interested in hackers and hacking, and really just security in general. I was lucky to have a family member working in InfoSec, who steered me the right direction for my education and now I am on the fast-track to landing my first security position
Without that summer, I’d probably still be making sub sandwiches for people, or checking out customers at a Wal Mart cash register. Be thankful for your experiences, good and bad, because they might be an active part of who you become one day – I now know that this experience made me who I am today
- We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency (Parmy Olson – Book)