WikiLeaks 'hacktivists' declare war on the UK
Anonymous, the "hactivist" collective behind a series of pro-WikiLeaks cyber attacks, has declared war on the British Government following the arrest of five of its members in the UK.
In a statement posted online, the organisation urged supporters to hit Government websites with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks – a way of flooding a target website with so many requests for information that it is forced to shut down.
The tactic has been used by Anonymous activists with remarkable success in the past two months to temporarily disable the websites of financial institutions or governments which have criticised WikiLeaks in the wake of the publication of thousands of secret US embassy cables.
The call to arms raises the spectre of co-ordinated cyber attacks on Government online infrastructure. It has been judged serious enough for GovCertUK, the information security agency, to warn government websites to take precautions.
The threat comes after police in Britain and the US ramped up investigations into the cyber protests. Last week the Metropolitan Police arrested five men in connection with pro-WikiLeaks attacks by Anonymous members. In the US, FBI agents conducted 40 raids on suspected Anonymous supporters at the weekend as part of an ongoing probe into recent attacks on Mastercard, Visa, PayPal and Amazon, who all have refused services to WikiLeaks after the cable leaks.
Anonymous said arresting somebody for taking part in a DDoS attack is like arresting them for attending a peaceful demonstration. "This right to peacefully protest is one of the fundamental pillars of any democracy and should not be restricted in any way."
I. The Search
The turmoil began on Thursday, when the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations executed 40 search warrants, raiding the houses of members of the group Anonymous, a 1,000+ member group of online enthusiasts/hackers who met on the image-board site 4Chan.
The raids followed Anonymous members coordinating and executing distributed denial of service (DDoS) and other malicious attacks on credit card
Anonymous dubbed the attacks "Operation Payback". The attacks were executed during the second week of December and succeeded in briefly disabling some of the targeted businesses' web portals.
Coldbood, Anonymous's unofficial spokesman described the attacks, stating:
Anonymous is supporting WikiLeaks not because we agree or disagree with the data that is being sent out, but we disagree with any from of censorship on the internet. If we let WikiLeaks fall without a fight then governments will think they can just take down any sites they wish or disagree with.Authorities have since worked with financial institutions and antivirus software makers to weed out and block the LOIC, putting an end (for now) to the attacks.
II. The Arrests
Now international authorities are getting a bit of "payback" of their own. In the Netherlands several arrests were reportedly made. And in the UK five people ages 25 to 16 were taken in for questioning. Among those arrested was the 22-year-old spokesperson, Coldblood.
Arrests may be in store in the U.S., as well, pending the results of the FBI's investigation. As of Monday no U.S.-based arrests had been announced yet.
The FBI issued a press release, stating:
A group calling itself “Anonymous” has claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they conducted them in protest of the companies’ and organizations’ actions. The attacks were facilitated by the software tools the group makes available for free download on the Internet. The victims included major U.S. companies across several industries.
The FBI also is reminding the public that facilitating or conducting a DDoS attack is illegal, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as exposing participants to significant civil liability.
III. Anonymous Says it is at "War"
Following the arrests Anonymous has released a statement [PDF] commenting:
Not only does it reveal the fact that you do not seem to understand the present-day political and technological reality, we also take this as a serious declaration of war from yourself, the UK government, to us, Anonymous, the people.What exact steps Anonymous will take to fight back in this "war" against the UK and Netherlands governments remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen whether the group will similarly call for a war against the U.S. if it makes arrests.
First and foremost, it is important to realize what a DDoS attack exactly is and what it means in the contemporary political context. As traditional means of protest (peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins, the blocking of a crossroads or the picketing of a factory fence) have slowly turned into nothing but an empty, ritualised gesture of discontent over the course of the last century, people have been anxiously searching for new ways to pressure politicians and give voice to public demands in a manner that might actually be able to change things for the better. Anonymous has, for now, found this new way of voicing civil protest in the form of the DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service, attack. Just as is the case with traditional forms of protest, we block
access to our opponents infrastructure to get our message across. Whether or not this infrastructure is located in the real world or in cyberspace, seems completely irrelevant to us.
Moreover, we would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on the difference between a DDoS attack and hacking, as these concepts often seem to be confounded when media and policy-makers talk about Anonymous. Hacking as such is defined by the law as ‘unauthorised access to a computer or network’, whereas a DDoS attack is simply a case of thousands of people making legitimate connections to a publicly accessible webserver at the same time, using up the entire bandwidth or processing power of the given server at once and thereby causing a huge ‘traffic jam’.
It is clear then, that arresting somebody for taking part in a DDoS attack is exactly like arresting somebody for attending a peaceful demonstration in their hometown. Anonymous believes this right to peacefully protest is one of the fundamental pillars of any democracy and should not be restricted in any way.
Moreover, we have noted that similar attacks have also been carried out against Wikileaks itself, yet so far, nobody has been arrested in connection with these attacks, nor are there even any signs of an investigation into this issue at all. Yet, we know exactly who was responsible for that attack. Anonymous believes it is unfair and hypocritical to attempt to put these 5 arrested anons to trial without even attempting to find those who DDoS’ed a website which you oppose. We can therefore only assume that these arrests are politically motivated, and were being carried out under pressure from the US government. Anonymous can not, and will not, stand idle while this injustice is being done.
The members of Anonymous arrested in the UK face up to 10 years in prison and ~$8,000 USD in fines, under the UK's Computer Misuse Act.
In related news, Anonymous is calling for internet action [video] in support of protesters in Egypt. The announcement comes after Egyptian authorities are seeking to block communication, impairing protesters' ability to organize.
ANONYMOUS PRESS RELEASE - 28/01/2011
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT ANONYMOUS
a Warning - Anonymous to US Gov
Operation Payback - Anonymous Message About ACTA Laws, Internet Censorship and Copyright