The Anonymous collective moved swiftly today, in response to actions taken by the Justice Department against operators of Megaupload.com, a wildly popular file sharing and online storage service.
The Department of Justice said that seven individuals and two corporations have been charged with running a criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for “massive worldwide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works.” The site has been taken down and assets and domain names have been seized by authorities.In response, the hacktivist collective clenched its virtual fist and launched what it says will be the “largest attack ever on government and music industry sites.”
The main tool powering the efforts of Anonymous to take its targets offline is the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC), a favorite tool used by “members” to conduct DDoS attacks by sending a flood of TCP/UDP packets in an attempt to overwhelm a system and make it inaccessible.
Via Twitter, it’s evident that today’s action against MegaUpload has sparked many more individuals to get involved in the online protests and download the LOIC to take part in the DDoS attacks. Chatter on Twitter and IRC is extremely active, and the attacks are likely to continue for some time.
“We Anonymous are launching our largest attack ever on government and music industry sites,” the group said in an online note. “Lulz. The FBI didn’t think they would get away with this did they? They should have expected us.”
Already, the group has targeted and taken down most of the following sites, at least for some period of time. Some appear to be sporadically accessible. It’s not the first time these sites have been hit with DDoS attacks, and while some were taken down, they often kick over to cloud based services or implement other DDoS mitigation actions until the attacks subside.
“DDoS is to the Internet what the Billy club is to gang warfare: simple, cheap, unsophisticated and effective,” said Rob Rachwald, Director of Security Strategy at Imperva. “But DDoS lends itself well to the Anonymous model which relies on crowd sourcing. During Operation Payback, Anonymous inspired an army of thousands in an attempt to bring numerous commercial sites.”
According to the Department of Justice, Megaupload.com and other related sites generated more than $175 million in profits through ad revenue and premium memberships, while causing more than $500 million dollars in damage to copyright owners. While the DOJ did not elaborate on how these figures were calculated, it did say the case is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States.
The indictment states that the conspirators promoted the uploading of popular copyrighted works including movies, music, television programs, electronic books, and software on a massive scale so that millions of users could download the content.
The individuals and two corporations – Megaupload Limited and Vestor Limited – were indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 5, 2012, and charged with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement. As part of the crackdown, authorities executed more than 20 search warrants in the U.S. and eight countries, and seized approximately $50 million in assets. Agents also seized several Megaupload servers and a U.S. ordered the seizure of 18 domain names connected to the operation.
Megaupload.com claims it had more than 150 million registered users and 50 million daily visitors to its site, accounting for four percent of total Internet traffic.
The individuals charged each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering, five years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and five years in prison on each of the substantive charges of criminal copyright infringement.
More details on the actions taken and those involved are available here.
By Mike Lennon