The "hacktivist" group Anonymous is tricking users into becoming part of a denial-of-service attack, some security experts are reporting, because of the U.S. government's raid on the file-sharing site Megaupload.com.
On the Pastebin.com site, where Anonymous members frequently post their statements, a Jan. 19 posting states that "We Anonymous are launching our largest attack ever on government and music industry sites." It noted that the "FBI didn't think they would get away with this did they?" adding that they "should have expected us."
'15 Fat Men' Through a Door
The statement references the recent shutdown of the New Zealand-based Megaupload by the FBI, and the arrest of its owner, who goes by the name of Kim Dotcom (originally known as Kim Schmitz), and four others for violating piracy laws. In response, the statement said, Anonymous said it took down a variety of entertainment industry and government sites, including justice.gov, universalmusic.com, riaa.org, mpaa.org, copyright.gov, usdoj.gov, bmi.com, fbi.gov, vivendi.fr, and whitehouse.gov.
The statement also published personal information about former U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, who is currently head of the MPAA, his wife and children, and the corporate office addresses of MPAA.
In a posting on the site of security firm Sophos, the company's senior technology consultant Graham Cluley noted that Anonymous has, on previous occasions, asked its supporters to install a program called LOIC, or Low Orbit Ion Cannon.
The software sets up computers to join a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS), which overwhelms a site with traffic . Cluley describes a DDoS attack as the equivalent of "15 fat men trying to get through a revolving door at the same time," in that "nothing can move."
The Megaupload arrests for copyright infringement follow attempts by U.S. legislators to pass two anti-piracy bills, one known as SOPA in the House of Representatives and the other called PIPA in the Senate. There was a massive self-blackout of thousands of Web sites last week in protest of those bills, and the bills' progress has been slowed down as various legislators have pulled their support. Opponents have said that the bills place a large burden on regular, non-infringing sites to help police the Internet.
Some have argued that the Megaupload arrests support the SOPA and PIPA opponents, who have contended that the new laws are not needed because the Justice Department already has the legal weapons it needs to shut down sites specializing in pirated intellectual property. Following the Megaupload raid, there are a variety of reports that similar file-sharing sites are taking steps to remove or restrict their services.