A bit of subversion…

Two items for today…

First you may have heard that last week New Zealand authorities, at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice arrested the persons behind Megaupload.com and shuttered the site.

Within an hour or so of the DOJ’s press release the Anonymous hive mind sprang into action and began firing up the LOIC and forcing websites by the DOJ, MPAA, and a host of others offline.

Now, the attack itself isn’t that big of a deal practically.  It’s not like any of the affected organizations will have to stop conducting business just because their websites were overloaded with traffic and rendered inaccessible.  But…

This sort of thumb in your eye operation accomplishes one of Anonymous’ key goals of attracting attention.  In addition the timing AND subject of this action was very favorable for Anonymous.  Right on the heels of the SOPA battle, people concerned about internet freedom were primed for action and the DOJ handed it to them in an incredibly poorly timed operation.This is the de-facto flag of the organization ...

Anonymous was able to begin mobilizing supporters to conduct DDOS attacks within minutes which is just amazing given this is a non-organizational movement.

And supporters?  Boy did they attract supporters.

The was downloaded most in the United States, Imperva said, at 7,328, followed by France and Brazil with about 4,000 downloads each. Germany and Spain rounded out the top five.

That’s in addition to one of Anonymous’ twitter feeds gathering 200,000 followers in a couple of days.  And I suspect lots of Megaupload users who suddenly find they can’t access their files (legit and illegit) might be upset and willing to cheer whoever takes a bit of revenge.

In addition, someone created a web-based version of the LOIC which allowed used to just click a link and thereby hand over a portion of their computer’s power to conduct DDOS attacks.  Some accused Anonymous of trickery and duping innocent people (the link didn’t indicate which users would get when they clicked the link) but I’m not so sure.  Assuming some person(s) did abuse Anonymous sympathizers with a trick like this AND users are so offended by being used in this way, it seems this would be a one shot operation and do damage to the ideas Anonymous wants to spread.

But, given that contributing to a DDOS attack is against the law and can result in jail time, I can’t help wondering if Anonymous is crazy like a fox here.  Have they just provided sympathizers with a way to participate in DDOS and also give a credible defense (reasonable doubt) that they had no idea what they were doing.  Certainly it would make proving such a charge more difficult since authorities would not just have to prove that a suspect participated in a DDOS attack but also that a reasonable person would have known that clicking an unmarked (or falsely marked) link was likely to make them an accomplice.

If that’s true we might be seeing the beginning of an evolution in hacking and hactivism.  I can certainly picture an arms race in which the authorities do what they can to make attacks like this illegal which Anonymous develops workarounds which allow users to maintain plausible deniability.

The second story involves Will Potter over at Green is the New Red.  Will is a writer and journalist with a definite point of view.  He’s very sympathetic to the animal rights movement (and was an activist for awhile) and writes about government actions which criminalize activists and label some terrorists.  I certainly don’t agree with everything Will writes but I’ve never seen him explicitly OR implicitly advocate violent or criminal activity.

So, it comes as a disappointment to see this post by Will in which he describes how he found out that his website was described as an “animal rights extremist website” by some US Attorneys in a sentencing memorandum against a Jordan Halliday.

I am not familiar with Halliday and so can make so comments on his guilt or innocence.  It appears that the Attorneys were quite sloppy here and cutting corners in order to make their case sound more compelling.  As Will puts it:

Prosecutors say that since my article mentioned Halliday in a photo caption, it means he placed himself “above the law” and violated an order to have “No association with animal group A.L.F., E.L.F., Vegan Straight Edge (VSE).” [The ALF and ELF are the underground Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front. “Vegan Straight Edge” is a punk lifestyle, not a terrorist group…

I’d want to see some evidence that Potter is a known member of ALF or ELF, otherwise how can one say that Halliday violated the letter (or spirit) of the order?  Was the guy supposed to interpreted it so broadly that he shouldn’t have watched Animal Planet lest he saw someone being nice to an animal?



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