by Paladin Proto
Over the past two months, a group calling itself “Anonymous,” with links to the 4chan Web forum and image board, has launched distributed denial-of-service attacks against Web sites operated by the Motion Picture Association of America, The Recording Industry Association (RIAA), Hustler magazine, rocker Gene Simmons, The British Phonographic Industry, and other similar groups in France, Australia, Spain and elsewhere.
The “4Chan” image chat board web site has cropped up in the news at CNET.COM repeatedly. On September 28, an internet gang called “Anonymous” known to frequent the 4Chan board is believed to have hacked into a server and compromised a database belonging to ACS Law, a law firm in Great Britain that tracks down illegal file sharers for the pornography industry.
While one of the 4chan group’s most recent attacks came last week against the Copyright Office, it is believed that the FBI began asking questions prior to that, said the source. Since the Copyright Office attack, however, FBI agents have begun working closely with many of the organizations attacked so far.
4chan and Anonymous have even drawn the ire of those who support their cause, because their DDoS-heavy attacks are viewed as counterproductive. In particular, groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU have criticized the tactic, although their rebukes of Anonymous have not gone far enough to satisfy either the RIAA or MPAA. With federal law enforcement officials now taking a serious look at 4chan and Anonymous, it appears that Gene Simmons’s threat that the attackers “might find their little butts in jail” could actually come about.
It is believed that only a small percentage of the users of the 4Chan board are malicious hackers, the rest being simply users of the web site. Articles on CNet.com incorrectly identify 4Chan as an organization in its own right, and mischaracterize the relationship between 4Chan and “Anonymous”. The 4Chan board was also the birthplace of the now-dead Second Life raiding group, “The Patriotic Nigras”, with most of its founding members having met on that board.
If “Anonymous” is trying to send a message, it’s far from a clear one. In 2008 and 2009, they attacked the Scientology web site. This year, they’re going after web sites having to do with the protection of intellectual property rights. They’re not only attacking unpopular organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America, last week they attacked the copyright office itself. They don’t appear to be fighting for justice as many claim. With this latest attack, they seem to be attacking copyrights in general.
Just last week, a 23-year-old student named Mitchell L. Frost, a 4Chan user identified as part of the “Anonymous” online gang, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for DDoSing the websites of conservative figures including Bill O’Reilly, Rudy Giuliani, and Ann Coulter between August of 2006 and March of 2007. It should be remembered, however, that “Anonymous” is not a structured organization but a loose coalition of individuals having varying levels of participation. Bringing members of “Anonymous” to justice is complicated by the fact that anyone may claim to be a member simply to boost their own reputation in internet chat forums.
With law enforcement now actively engaged in the pursuit of 4Chan and Anonymous hackers, Anonymous has announced that they will be “scaling back” their activities.
- CNET.COM – 4Chan Takes Down RIAA, MPAA Sites
- SWITCHED.COM – FBI Investigating 4Chan and Anonymous over DDoS Attacks
- TECHMEME.COM – FBI probes 4chan’s ‘Anonymous’ DDoS attacks
- WIRED.COM – Sarah Palin E-Mail Hacker Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison
Update: November 14, 2010
In a bizarre twist, 4Chan.org and Tumblr.com are exchanging DDoS attacks. 4Chan.org was down for a approximately an hour starting at 2:40PM PST, and Tumblr.com went down an hour after that. Calls to arms encouraging members to participate in violation of federal laws against internet hacking were posted by the 4Chan.org site. The Tumblr response was to counter-attack with a DDoS attack of their own, and then flood 4Chan with pictures of cute fluffy kittens.
Any claims of so-called public dissident “hacktivism” are effectively drowned out by simple self-centered brinkmanship. The 4Channers and Tumblr are fighting a low-brow turf war, while the FBI gathers evidence they need against both groups.
Second Life trolling and griefing groups having deeply rooted links to 4Chan may be rethinking their entire reason for existing at this point. One thing is certain: the /b/ world is coming apart at the seams.
- TECHCRUNCH.COM – Did Tumblr Just Reverse Take Down 4Chan?
- URLESQUE.COM – 4chan Users Try to DDoS Tumblr, Tumblrs Raid 4chan in Revenge