The hacker collective Anonymous seems to have changed tacks on its effort to pay back Sony, emphasizing that its members are on the side of consumers and gamers.

On Wednesday Anonymous launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on several of Sony's web sites. A DDoS, at its simplest, is simply flooding the site's servers with requests and forcing it to shut down in order to deal with them.

A press release on Annonews.org says, Anonymous is not attacking the PSN at this time. Sony's official position is that the PSN is undergoing maintenance. We realize that targeting the PSN is not a good idea. We have therefore temporarily suspended our action, until a method is found that will not severely impact Sony customers.

Giventhat Anonymous doesn't have a tightly organized leadership it isn't clear whether the release represents the will of some, all or none of the members of the collective.

The DDoS attacks did not have much effect, except maybe to annoy some users of Sony's PlayStation Network. Sony's sites are currently up and running. The attacks were in response to legal action taken against another hacker, George Hotz, or GeoHot, who modified a PlayStation 3. Hotz had released a firmware modification jailbreaking the console, allowing it to run other operating systems. Sony had removed that functionality some months before. The suit is pending.

The release says the crux of the matter for Anonymous is that Sony asked for the personal information of people who viewed Hotz's video demonstrations of the jailbreaking on YouTube and visited his web site.

Sony hired computer security firm Prolexic to help it deal with the attack on its sites, and that seems to have worked. Anonymous' attack was not as sophisticated as it might have been, noted Prolexic's chief technology officer, Paul Sop.

Another operation that Anonymous launched was to find personal information (known as doxing) Sony employees and even their families. The plan was to publish the information. The press release notes that Anonymous, being a loosely-organized group, might have members who engage in that activity without necessarily getting the whole collective to agree.  

Anonymous has a Facebook page that references April 16, though it doesn't say what that might be planned for that day.

A Sony spokesperson said the company is investigating the attacks, but would not give further details.