Anonymous Goes After World Governments in Wake of Anti-SOPA Protests

@AnonyOps in interview with Wired. Credit: Annaliza Savage/Wired

Over the last week, Anonymous has launched unprecedented string of attacks on government and business sites around the world, as the anger of the hive that a year ago turned on Egypt’s Mubarak regime turned on governments around the world.

Continuous DDoSing and hacking attacks by Anonymous seems to be largely a response to proposals to strengthen intellectual property law at the expense of an open internet and to what Anonymous perceives to be overreaching of the power by various governments. After attacks on the websites of U.S. government agencies and major American rightsholder groups in response to arrests of employees of the file sharing site Megaupload, a new internationalist round started after a tweet by a high-profile Anonymous Twitter account, AnonyOps on Saturday:

If you hated #SOPA, you’ll burst into flames about #ACTA Negotiated in secret. iPod searches at border crossings.

The controversial treaty will be voted on soon in Poland, which made it convenient to turn the outrage against an American internet censorship bill and legal action toward a transnational proposal.

Anonymous banded together with digital activists in Poland to respond. Activists on Facebook have set up a physical protest and had “blackout” day Tuesday similar to the blackout to protest SOPA. Anonymous began to DDoS Polish governmental sites and claims to have hacked into ministerial computers and stolen documents.

The combination of anonymous attacks and Polish outrage has brought the obscure ACTA treaty back into the light and amplified the conversation in Poland about whether ACTA is  good for Poland and the Polish internet. While the Minister of Administration and Digitization Michał Boni has said the signing of ACTA will go forward regardless of any threats from Anonymous or protestations from the Polish people, the treaty must still be ratified by the Polish Parliament to become law.

As Polish activists hit the street, some anons put out a statement that it was time to stop the DDoS, and as of this writing, DDoS against E.U. targets have dropped. On Wednesday, protestors by the thousands clogged streets in several Polish cities, chanting and carrying signs protesting the signing of the treaty tomorrow.

ACTA is a secretive treaty pushed and quite possibly in part penned by the same interests that just saw their plans for SOPA go up in internet flames — the entertainment industry. It’s never been subject to any public scrutiny, but leaked versions of it revealed a requirement for provisions like a three strikes law that could cut people off from the internet and a reversal of DMCA-style safe harbors that have allowed companies like YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Google to function.

The Obama administration have also said that the treaty doesn’t require congressional approval in the U.S., and will be implemented with an executive order. The lack of ability for the internet community to weigh in on laws that would deeply affect them has been frustrating.

“The whole government is basically being bought out in every facet,” said an anon on IRC involved with the anti-ACTA actions.

In France the movement to stop ACTA blossomed into over a thousand handles in the francophone channels of Anonymous irc servers, and DDoSes against French media empire Vivendi. Hundreds of French, Polish, and Portuguese speakers made the anonops servers more global than they’ve ever been.

Another part of the evolving mission has surfaced in Brazil, where crackdown on a shanty town called Pinheirinho has also provoked attacks from Antisec, as the violent eviction of more than 5,000 people moves into day four.

Brazilian hackers asked some of the black-hat anons to help them, and the anons claimed to have rooted dozens of boxes in Brazil, looting documents and handing the keys to the Brazilians.

“Antisec supported the Brazilians because they asked for help,” one anon told Wired in an online chat. “They consider themselves part of and fans of Lulzsec and Antisec.”

Among those hacked was a website of Organizações Globo, a large Latin American media conglomerate based in Brazil. One,, thanked Sabu and #antisec, and went on to express what has perhaps become the zeitgeist of the internet in the last week: “What the fuck is happening in the world!”

According to Gabriella Coleman, Professor of Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy, McGill University, what’s happening is that a generation of people whose way of life is inseparable from the net see threats to their culture and are willing to fight.

“The op was rooted in some core issues that Anonymous and internet enthusiasts care deeply about: free speech, censorship, and intellectual property restrictions,” said Coleman.

It’s impossible to know how long the hive mind can keep up the energy and focus in the face of the power of the governments of the world. A lot depends on how much the citizens of affected countries support what Anonymous is doing in the coming months. Regardless, over the last few weeks Anonymous seems to be evolving into the net’s unified activist, the only force spanning nations, jurisdictions, protocols, and language barriers.

Since last Wednesday many anons have barely slept as they’ve moved from target to target, trying to down government and corporate sites or attack servers or even in some cases the personal computers of representative of governments. “But time is of the essence,” one anon told Wired on IRC, “and the battle never more important.”

They agreed this action was sparked by Megaupload, and fed by the success of the widespread internet protest against SOPA/PIPA, but that it went beyond those two issues. One anon had seen news of the arrests, and logged into a channel to rant, only to find operations already underway. This anon knew Anonymous was “going to go crazy.”

A1: I think it more then that, Megaupload had a valid service to us all
A2: and then just went and raided it anyway
A2: I mean that is one huge part
A1: we are mad at the fact that we lost a major system today

It turned out to not just be that one, as file hosting services in the last few days have been either voluntarily shutting down in advance of anticipated U.S. law enforcement action, or cutting off America and nations following American IP regimes.

One Antisec anon on IRC called it “a major threat to the cloud.”

“A site being shuttered through civil litigation is sort of the iron fist in the velvet glove approach,” said an anon involved both in DDoS and antisec actions on the anonops server. “The feds shutting down a site through law enforcement is the act of the velvet glove coming off the iron fist.”

On Guard Online, defaced by Anonymous

In the midst of attacks, both legal and not, in France, Poland, America, Brazil, and others, the black-hat Antisec wing of Anonymous hacked and defaced, a Federal Trade Commission website that brings together multiple federal agencies to distribute computer security information online. Antisec claims to have hundreds of servers rooted, but this one was meant as a specific message to so-called “white hats” — the hacker professionals who work for corporations and governments. Their announcement read in part:

PASS THAT TRASH AND WE WILL RM HALF THE CORPORATE INTERNET… If SOPA/PIPA/ACTA passes we will wage a relentless war against the corporate internet, destroying dozens upon dozens of government and company websites. As you are reading this we are amassing our allied armies of darkness, preparing boatloads of stolen booty for our next raid. We are sitting on hundreds of rooted servers getting ready to drop all your mysql dumps and mail spools. Your passwords? Your precious bank accounts? Even your online dating details?! You ain’t even trying to step to this.

It’s not the first time the collective had tended toward dramatic and apocalyptic pronouncements, either out of hacker hubris or for the lulz, but the action has been more widespread and relentless than anything from Anonymous since its involvement with the Arab Spring. “It also shows that Anonymous is still able to tap a general feeling of discontent and amplify it visibly via the DDoS campaign and the PR material they churn out so quickly. What stuck out as different (in the recent ops) was just how many sites they took down in one day. It was impressively large,” says Coleman.

Anonymous replaced the homepage of the FTC-run with this logo.

On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission tweeted “The FTC takes this malicious act seriously” as part of a longer set of tweets on the subject. The security site remains down until its vulnerabilities are found and fixed.

And following the very expensive shutdown of Sony’s PlayStation Network last spring after hackers broke in and the embarrassment visited upon private intelligence firm Stratfor when activist hackers dumped data from their servers in December, the fear of Anonymous is now real in the corporate world.