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The arrests follow attacks against companies like MasterCard and Visa that cut funding to Wikileaks. Anonymous says that it is at "war" with the UK government following the arrests.  (Source: Guardian UK)
Fiery statement from Anonymous follows the arrest of several of the group's hackers

Amid the drama unfolding in Egypt, drama of a very different nature was unfolding in the U.S. over the weekend.  Hackers belonging to one of the highest profile online communities have accused the U.S. and UK governments of declaring "war" on them, and vow to fight back.

I.  The Search

The turmoil began on Thursday, when the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations executed 40 search warrants, raiding the houses of members of the group Anonymous, a 1,000+ member group of online enthusiasts/hackers who met on the image-board site 4Chan.

The raids followed Anonymous members coordinating and executing distributed denial of service (DDoS) and other malicious attacks on credit card companies and financial institutions.  The attacks came after those companies denied funding for controversial leaks site Wikileaks, saying that the site was supporting illegal activity.  The hackers used a DDoS program dubbed the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) tool -- an homage to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back -- in their attacks.

Anonymous dubbed the attacks "Operation Payback".  The attacks were executed during the second week of December and succeeded in briefly disabling some of the targeted businesses' web portals.

Coldbood, Anonymous's unofficial spokesman described the attacks, stating:

Anonymous is supporting WikiLeaks not because we agree or disagree with the data that is being sent out, but we disagree with any from of censorship on the internet. If we let WikiLeaks fall without a fight then governments will think they can just take down any sites they wish or disagree with.

Authorities have since worked with financial institutions and antivirus software makers to weed out and block the LOIC, putting an end (for now) to the attacks.

II. The Arrests

Now international authorities are getting a bit of "payback" of their own.  In the Netherlands several arrests were reportedly made.  And in the UK five people ages 25 to 16 were taken in for questioning.  Among those arrested was the 22-year-old spokesperson, Coldblood.

Arrests may be in store in the U.S., as well, pending the results of the FBI's investigation.  As of Monday no U.S.-based arrests had been announced yet.

The FBI issued a press release, stating:

A group calling itself “Anonymous” has claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they conducted them in protest of the companies’ and organizations’ actions. The attacks were facilitated by the software tools the group makes available for free download on the Internet. The victims included major U.S. companies across several industries.

The FBI also is reminding the public that facilitating or conducting a DDoS attack is illegal, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as exposing participants to significant civil liability.

III.  Anonymous Says it is at "War"

Following the arrests Anonymous has released a statement [PDF] commenting:

Not only does it reveal the fact that you do not seem to understand the present-day political and technological reality, we also take this as a serious declaration of war from yourself, the UK government, to us, Anonymous, the people.

First and foremost, it is important to realize what a DDoS attack exactly is and what it means in the contemporary political context. As traditional means of protest (peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins, the blocking of a crossroads or the picketing of a factory fence) have slowly turned into nothing but an empty, ritualised gesture of discontent over the course of the last century, people have been anxiously searching for new ways to pressure politicians and give voice to public demands in a manner that might actually be able to change things for the better. Anonymous has, for now, found this new way of voicing civil protest in the form of the DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service, attack. Just as is the case with traditional forms of protest, we block

access to our opponents infrastructure to get our message across. Whether or not this infrastructure is located in the real world or in cyberspace, seems completely irrelevant to us.

Moreover, we would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on the difference between a DDoS attack and hacking, as these concepts often seem to be confounded when media and policy-makers talk about Anonymous. Hacking as such is defined by the law as ‘unauthorised access to a computer or network’, whereas a DDoS attack is simply a case of thousands of people making legitimate connections to a publicly accessible webserver at the same time, using up the entire bandwidth or processing power of the given server at once and thereby causing a huge ‘traffic jam’.

It is clear then, that arresting somebody for taking part in a DDoS attack is exactly like arresting somebody for attending a peaceful demonstration in their hometown. Anonymous believes this right to peacefully protest is one of the fundamental pillars of any democracy and should not be restricted in any way.

Moreover, we have noted that similar attacks have also been carried out against Wikileaks itself, yet so far, nobody has been arrested in connection with these attacks, nor are there even any signs of an investigation into this issue at all. Yet, we know exactly who was responsible for that attack. Anonymous believes it is unfair and hypocritical to attempt to put these 5 arrested anons to trial without even attempting to find those who DDoS’ed a website which you oppose. We can therefore only assume that these arrests are politically motivated, and were being carried out under pressure from the US government. Anonymous can not, and will not, stand idle while this injustice is being done.

What exact steps Anonymous will take to fight back in this "war" against the UK and Netherlands governments remains to be seen.  It also remains to be seen whether the group will similarly call for a war against the U.S. if it makes arrests.

The members of Anonymous arrested in the UK face up to 10 years in prison and ~$8,000 USD in fines, under the UK's Computer Misuse Act.

In related news, Anonymous is calling for internet action [video] in support of protesters in Egypt.  The announcement comes after Egyptian authorities are seeking to block communication, impairing protesters' ability to organize.

Comments     Threshold

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By mcnabney on 1/31/2011 11:39:06 AM , Rating: 2
Well, a sit-in actually requires, you know, effort. You actually have to go somewhere and look a business-owner in the eye and sit there. The business owner CAN and often WILL call the police and the police will come by and pick you up, physically, and take you to jail. You can post bail and be out later that day. Eventually you will go to court and pay a small fine.

Spending 15 seconds clicking a download link, clicking install, and setting the application to 'On' requires about as much effort and personal risk as wiping your butt.

I am offended that the script-kiddies that installed LOIC equate their actions with real civil disobedience. They are not like the participants in civil rights marches in the US. They are not like the protesters in Egypt right now. They are operating from behind the veil of perceived anonymity and are finding out that their actions have left a very clear trail back to their parent's house. What they did is the digital equivalent of vandalism. Kind of like squirting glue in the locks on the doors to a business. I think we can all agree that this is a criminal act. Programming your computer to do that type of action based upon some third-parties targeting instructions is clearly a criminal act.

By gcolefla on 1/31/2011 11:51:56 AM , Rating: 2
I am pretty sure that you have a freedom of assembly and picketing. Your business owner can call the police all they want, but your freedom of peaceful assembly is protected on public property. Your comments suggest our government has taken a turn for a fascist regime.

By xthetenth on 1/31/2011 12:10:48 PM , Rating: 2
That's the entire point of a sit-in. You go there, you get harassed or arrested and you show the flaws in the society or legal system by doing so. If the system isn't flawed you either don't get arrested or harassed, or nobody cares. The nearest equivalent is surrounding the registers and the entrances and exits to keep customers out, and there are laws for that sort of behavior. The rights of citizens allow far more than the rights of government in a fair system, so there is a difference between what somebody can do and ask the police to force compliance with on property they own and what the government can do on its own.

By ebakke on 1/31/2011 2:12:37 PM , Rating: 2
Your business owner can call the police all they want, but your freedom of peaceful assembly is protected on public property.
If you're protesting at someone's business, you're not on public property - you're on the business owner's. And if you are on public property, most jurisdictions have rules about permits for large gatherings of people. Furthermore, none of your rights ever allow you to infringe on the rights of anyone else. So while you may be able to peacefully assemble, you still have to abide by harassment, loitering, gathering/permit laws. If you fail to do so, just like he said, the person you're targeting will call the police and you'll be arrested.

By mudgiestylie on 1/31/2011 2:21:22 PM , Rating: 4
Right, and didn't they say that a bunch of these kids have been arrested? That is personal risk. Setting up a website is much faster and less hands on in a physical sense than building a factory or a storefront, so why should civil disobedience be any different by the same means? The operators of a website also exist behind a perceived veil of anonymity. No anonymous is not like a 1960's civil rights march, but of course the internet didn't exist at the time, and if it had, the freedom riders might have used this tactic as well. How do you propose they go on a march on the internet? All they were doing was being a disruption, which is basically the same tactic that MLK and Ghandi did (of course i don't mean to put anonymous on the same level as them, but their tactics are very similar). Just because someone isn't getting blasted with a water cannon or beaten with truncheons doesn't mean their message isn't valid and sincere, or that their methods are half-hearted. Maybe those civil rights leaders would have had an easier time and a quicker resolution to their causes if it were "easy" like this. The contrast to Egypt is an excellent point, but not the one you were trying to make... anonymous didn't loot anything or break anything or light anything on fire. The glue in the business doors locks is a weak analogy, because nothing is damaged.

By gescom on 2/1/2011 8:41:01 AM , Rating: 2
@ mcnabney
I think we can all agree that this is a criminal act.

Do you read everything you're supposed to read?
Do you think everything you're supposed to think?
Buy what you're told you should want?
No? Then I think we can all agree that this is a criminal act. You should call your nearest police station NOW!

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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