January 26, 2013
Anonymous Hacks USSC Website, Claiming Retribution For Aaron Swartz
Cyberattackers, claiming to be affiliated with the online collective Anonymous, hacked into the website of the US Sentencing Commission (USSC) early Saturday morning, posting a tribute to late Internet activist Aaron Swartz and threatening to declare “war” on the American government in retaliation for his death, various media outlets have reported.
According to Mashable´s Chris Taylor, the homepage of the website belonging to the agency which establishes sentencing policies for all US federal courts had been replaced with “a long screed in green on black” as well as a video originating from YouTube.
Initially, the other pages on the website appeared to be “functioning normally” and showed no signs of “widespread vandalism,” Taylor said. However, an hour after his initial report, he noted the site was getting “a little slow” and appeared to be suffering from a denial of service attack. “At the bottom of the page is a series of nine files, mirrored three times. Each file is named for a current U.S. Supreme Court Justice,” he added.
The attack was “in retaliation” for the death of the 26-year-old Swartz, who was found dead of an apparent suicide in his Brooklyn apartment earlier this month. Swartz helped create the RSS specification at the age of 14 and was also instrumental in the development of social news website Reddit.
Swartz also founded the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigned against online censorship. However, he had been arrested in connection with the hacking and theft of millions of documents from online research firm JSTOR. He had pleaded not guilty to computer fraud changes and was facing an April trial. Had he been found guilty, Swartz could have faced a lengthy prison term, as well as hefty fines.
“In addition to the defacing of the site with a video, a statement on Swartz´s death and the government´s alleged harassment of the activist and a Nyan Cat graphic, instructions were disseminated via Twitter and on Pastebin for supporters to assist in promoting the message added by the activist group,” the website The Inquistr reported on Saturday. “As of 3am EST, the attack on the site remains viewable at USSC.gov.”
As of 7am EST, however, the USSC website was completely inaccessible.
“Promising revenge for his treatment at the hands of a federal prosecutor, the screed veers into some of the most inflammatory — dare we say hyperbolic — language we've seen on a simple front page hack,” Taylor said, adding Anonymous has dubbed their efforts Operation Last Resort. “The group talks of planting ℠multiple warheads´ on ℠compromised systems´ on various unnamed websites, and encourages members to download a given file from ussc.gov that is “primed, armed and quietly distributed to numerous mirrors.´”
Earlier this week, two members of the hacking collective were sentenced to jail time for their role in attacks on the websites of PayPal, Mastercard, and Visa. Christopher Weatherhead, 22, was sentenced to 18 months after being found guilty in the attacks, and Ashley Rhodes, 28, received a seven-month sentence for conspiracy to impair the operation of computers.