Authorities Investigate Justice Department Website Hacking
January 21, 2012

Authorities Investigate Justice Department Website Hacking

Federal authorities are investigating a potential cyberattack on the Justice Department website late Thursday evening -- attacks believed to have been in retaliation for the shutting down of file-sharing website, according to various media reports.

USA Today writers Kevin Johnson and Byron Acohido said that the Justice Department homepage was back online Friday, and that federal law enforcement said that they believed that the FBI-maintained website was targeted due to the arrests of four suspects in a vast online piracy investigation.

Officials have accused of "costing copyright holders more than $500 million in lost revenue from pirated films, music and other content," according to Johnson and Acohido. Prior to the website's closure, a statement was posted calling the allegations "grotesquely overblown," and shortly thereafter, members of the hacking collective "Anonymous" claimed to be behind the Justice Department website attacks.

In a statement quoted by USA Today, Justice Department officials said that they were "working to ensure the website is available while we investigate the origins of this activity, which is being treated as a malicious act until we can fully identify the root cause of the disruption."

As previously reported on, four company officials were arrested by FBI and Justice Department officials Friday morning. Among them were CEO Kim Dotcom (aka Kim Schmitz), who was arrested in Auckland, New Zealand. Three other individuals remained at large. Each faces five counts of copyright infringement and conspiracy, for which they could receive up to a maximum of 20 years in prison.

According to Kevin J. O'Brien of the New York Times, police arrived at Dotcom's mansion in two helicopters on the morning of November 20. They then had to neutralize several electronic locks and cut their way into a safe room in order to apprehend the 37-year-old website founded.

"While the raid Friday may have been Mr. Dotcom´s most dramatic encounter with the law, it was not his first," O'Brien said. "In February 2001, Mr. Dotcom told Die Welt that he spent three months in a Munich jail in 1994 and served two years´ probation for breaking into Pentagon computers and observing real-time satellite photos of Saddam Hussein´s palaces during the first Gulf war."

"In the mid-1990s, Mr. Dotcom received a suspended two-year sentence for a scam that made use of stolen phone card numbers," he added. "In 2001, at the height of the dot-com hysteria, Mr. Dotcom was accused in what was then the largest insider-trading case in German history. Prosecutors in Munich said he bought shares in a struggling online business,, then announced he planned to make a major investment in the company and rescue it from insolvency“¦ Mr. Dotcom allegedly made more than $1 million when the shares soared."

O'Brien said that approximately $50 million in assets were seized during the investigation, as well as an unspecified number of servers and 18 domain names used by the Megaupload network of file-sharing websites. Furthermore, the Times reports that police seized $4.8 million in luxury vehicles, artwork, and electronic equipment, while also freezing a total of $11 million worth of cash spread across multiple bank accounts.

In an interesting side note, especially in the wake of the SOPA and PIPA legislation debate, ArsTechnica's Nate Anderson discovered in the U.S. government's 72-page indictment of Dotcom and the Megaupload staff that sometime in May 2007, Google AdSense representatives emailed the file-sharing website's founder alerting him that they had found "numerous pages" across their network that linked to "copyrighted content."

As a result, Google told them that they would no longer be able to work with

Anderson calls the information "interesting for what it tells us about Google“¦ the company has been absolutely vilified in recent months for taking advertising money from pirates, counterfeiters, and other unsavory characters. The implication–and sometimes it's far more than an implication–is that Google opposed recent legislation like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) only because it couldn't pass up the sweet nectar of forbidden cash."

"The Megaupload indictment appears to show that Google proactively took measures against the site as far back as 2007–even though the account must have been generating quite a bit of money," he added. "As the government's own indictment shows, Google has for years made (yes, sometimes inconsistent) efforts to address infringement and counterfeiting using its ad programs."


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