Things appear to have calmed down significantly since last night — when the FBI, Department of Justice, France’s Hadopi, record labels and many others went offline after a series of attacks from Anonymous hackers. Several of these — specifically the big government websites — are now back online, but Anonymous is warning of more disruption as its member ranks continue to grow.
Yesterday, via the YourAnonNews twitter feed, Anonymous said that more than 5,000 people were joining in their Distributed Denial of Service attack on web sites. But now the attack has gone viral: the number earlier today updated by Anonymous to more than 9,000.
DDoS attacks on a site involve a number of users making persistent requests to a target site. The target site gets overloaded and shuts down. DDoS benefit from crowd-sourced action, while site hacks rely on hackers getting past ecrypted firewalls to access a site’s database and related records. Anonymous kicked off its attack in response to the closure of file sharing site Megaupload — but also as part of its own protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a controversial piece of legislation currently making its way through the House of Representatives and inspiring a number of online protests, including blackouts of high-profile sites like Wikipedia
Getting the “protest” to go viral has had the effect of making it that much more destructive in its force — which will give authorities more fodder in their case against the group. However, it could have also been a stroke of genius: it is hard to imagine how authorities will go about effecitvely prosecuting 9,000 people, who will be distributed across different jurisdictions and playing varying roles in the event.The people who unwittingly became players in the attacks by clicking on the wrong link make that even more tricky.
Meanwhile, some developments on the site take-downs:
As of the time of writing, U.S. government and public safety sites — the FBI, the DoJ and the Copyright Office — all appear to be working normally again. Ditto France’s three-strikes copyright law administrators, Hadopi.
However, the Utah state police force, which last night found itself hacked with public service message in support of Megaupload (pictured here), is now offline completely.
How this will develop, and whether Anonymous supporters are looking at workarounds for those sites that have started to work again, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, more detail is emerging around Megaupload, the file-sharing site that was the overt cause for the series of DDoS attacks:
Rebirth? And as with other sites like Pirate Bay and BitTorrent that have been closed down in the past, it looks like it will re-emerge in a different form, hosted elsewhere — although the few links that have been publicized as the “new” addresses for the site have not gone anywhere.
As my colleague Jeff pointed out yesterday, part of the arrest and seizure process yesterday also involved authorities taking possession of some $50 million worth of servers across different international territories. It wouldn’t be out of the question, though, to wonder whether founder Kim Dotcom and his partners didn’t see this coming and had some back up plans in the works.
Who else involved? Although music producer Swizz Beatz was connected to the making of an endorsing Megaupload music video, featuring a long list of stars such as Will.i.am and Kanye West, he is not connected to the company itself, writes Forbes. Megaupload, before its closure yesterday, was suing Universal Music for forcing a take-down of the video from YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG). It’s not clear whether that suit will continue in light of more recent events, and in fact it is still there now (embedded below), and is embedded below.
Who else involved? Very innocent people, apparently. Ernesto at TorrentFreak notes that a number of people are starting to complain of how the abrupt closure of Megaupload has also taken with it a number of pieces of legitimate content — research files, work documents, personal videos and other content uploaded by them into the cloud to share with others, as part of a paid service that Megaupload offered.