Anonymous Attacks on U.S. Department of Justice
In what was billed as "Monday Mail Mayhem," the hacktivist group Anonymous released a 1.7-GB archive that it's characterizing as "data that used to belong to the United States Bureau of Justice, until now."
"Within the booty you may find lots of shiny things such as internal emails, and the entire database dump," according to a statement released by the group. "We Lulzed as they took the website down after being owned, clearly showing they were scared of what inevitably happened."
That statement was included with a BitTorrent file (named 1.7GB_leaked_from_the_Bureau_of_Justice) uploaded Monday to the Pirate Bay by "AnonymousLeaks," although multiple downloaders Tuesday complained that the Torrent download was stuck at the 94%-completion point.
Why "dox"--release purloined data from--the Bureau of Justice Statistics? "We are releasing data to spread information, to allow the people to be heard, and to know the corruption in their government," according to the Anonymous statement. "We are releasing it to end the corruption that exists, and truly make those who are being oppressed free."
[ Learn why anonymity is an important part of the Internet. Has Anonymous Ruined Online Anonymity? ]
The Bureau of Justice Statistics compiles statistics related to hacking crimes. Except for that fact, the agency would make for an odd attack choice, since it's devoted to number-crunching "information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government," according to its website.
The Department of Justice said that it's investigating the alleged attack. "The department is looking into the unauthorized access of a website server operated by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that contained data from their public website," said a Department of Justice spokesman via email. "The Bureau of Justice Statistics website has remained operational throughout this time. The department's main website,justice.gov, was not affected."
"The department is continuing protection and defensive measures to safeguard information and will refer any activity that is determined to be criminal in nature to law enforcement for investigation," he said.
In other hacktivism news, Anonymous affiliate AntiS3curityOPS said that it had launched a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against government websites in Chicago, to support anti-NATO protest marches in the city that saw police officers clash with protestors, resulting in several injuries and 45 arrests. All told, 51 world leaders attended the two-day NATO summit, including President Barack Obama.
On Sunday, prior to the protest marches, the Chicago Police Department and city council websites were knocked offline, and AntiS3curityOPS took credit. "We are actively engaged in actions against the Chicago Police Department and encourage anyone to take up the cause and use the AntiS3curityOPS Anonymous banner," according to a YouTube video released by the group. "We are in your harbor Chicago, and you will not forget us."
Interestingly, AntiS3curityOPS said that it had also assisted with the Bureau of Justice Statistics attack. "We were not behind http://justice.gov DB attack. However, we can confirm we 'helped' attacked site, and another faction has email spools," the group said Tuesday via Twitter.
When it comes to DDoS attacks of late, however, hacktivists haven't been the only actors. Notably, the Pirate Bay--where a Torrent file for downloading the purloined Bureau of Justice Statistics information was uploaded--was itself recently knocked offline for 24 hours by a DDoS attack.
The attack came after the Pirate Bay had criticized an Anonymous-led DDoS campaign against Virgin Media in the United Kingdom, which had begun blocking U.K. access to the Pirate Bay, in compliance with a court order. "We do NOT encourage these actions. We believe in the open and free internets, where anyone can express their views. Even if we strongly disagree with them and even if they hate us," the Pirate Bay said in its anti-DDoS statement, which was posted to Facebook. "So don't fight them using their ugly methods. DDOS and blocks are both forms of censorship."
Interestingly, the Pirate Bay statement included a practical call to arms that stands in sharp contrast to the use of DDoS attacks by Anonymous as a form of online protest. "If you want to help; start a tracker, arrange a manifestation, join or start a pirate party, teach your friends the art of bittorrent, set up a proxy, write your political representatives, develop a new p2p protocol, print some pro piracy posters and decorate your town with, support our promo bay artists, or just be a nice person and give your mom a call to tell her you love her," recommended the Pirate Bay.
Was Anonymous behind the DDoS attack against the Pirate Bay? While that rumor was circulating online, the Pirate Bay dismissed it. "Just to clarify, we know that it is not Anonymous who is behind the DDoS attack. Stop spreading rumors like that," it said. "We may not agree with Anonymous in everything, but we both want the internet to be open and free."
Likewise, Corero Network Security president Andre Stewart emphasized that non-Anonymous actors--a foreign government, record labels, or even a long hacker--were likely to have been behind the attack. "There are a lot of motives out there to bring down a site like The Pirate Bay," he told PC Pro. "It doesn't make any sense to be Anonymous ... it's one of the main areas it defends."