Anonymous's latest target was Virgin Media.  (Source: David Shankbone)
Virgin Media was complying with UK High Court order

On Wednesday famed hacker group Anonymous was once more in the spotlight, using its trademark distributed denial of service tactics to temporarily obliterate the web presence of Virgin Media Inc. (LON:VMED).  The attacks came in retaliation for the company's decision to comply with a court order to block a top website well-known as a hotbed for piracy.

Anonymous recently made TIME magazine's list of the 100 most influential "people" in the world for 2012.  Feared, respected, the defiant hacker collective is made up of tens of thousands of active members worldwide.  There are no elected or appointed officials in Anonymous, only organizers.  To become a leader in Anonymous, you must do things the old fashioned way -- impress the community with your actions.  

For better or worse Anonymous's activist hackers tend to ignore the law and the prevailing sentiments of the mass media public.  At times this has drawn praise from the corporate electronics industry and U.S. government, such as when Anonymous helped spark insurrection in the Arab Spring, which took down several fundamentalist Muslim dictatorships.  At other times their behavior has drawn condemnation, as in the case of the collective's severe harassment of Japanese tech giant Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) -- a tempting target thanks to its at times punitively anti-customer attitudes and extraordinarily weak security.

Virgin Media
DDOS attacks by Anonymous left Virgin Media's homepage unreachable.
[Image Source: The Register] 

The latest Virgin Media dust-up comes due to the service provider's decision to cooperate with a UK High Court's order to block The Pirate Bay, the world's largest file-sharing hub for torrents and magnet-links.

The UK High Court sided with big corporate record labels and their copyright attack-dog, the Performing Rights Society -- a sister organization to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).  Like the RIAA, the PRS is known for extreme measures, such as trying to outlaw CD burning and threatening to sue workers who sing in public.

The takedown led to a matching takedown of Virgin Media's homepage, courtesy of Anonymous's UK branch.  Twitter account AnonUK writes:

#Anonymous have just taken down #VirginMediawebsite again because of their involvement in the #Censorship of The Pirate Bay #TPB #OpTPB

Anonymous are vocal supporters of The Pirate Bay.

The Pirate Bay
The Pirate Bay has been blocked by Virgin Media. [Image Source: World Under Control]

The UK's court's decision to side with the PRS is a controversial one.  The PRS and its member labels have drawn criticism in recent years for essentially "pirating" independent musicians works for profit.  UK law allows the big record labels to "claim" "unclaimed" works.  Musicians must apply for compensation.  However, the record labels reportedly make the process convoluted enough that many musicians are never reimbursed, leading to claims that big media is stealing more content from rights owners than pirates.

Virgin Media is currently the second largest broadband internet provider [source] in the UK.  It was the first "quadruple play" service provider in the nation -- a provider who offers television, internet, mobile phone, and fixed-line telephone services.

The service provider confirms the attack in a statement given to The Register, commenting:

Our website,, has been the subject of denial of service attacks so we took the site offline for a short period of time. We're aware some groups are claiming the attacks are a result of the recent High Court order which requires ISPs to prevent access to The Pirate Bay.

As a responsible ISP, Virgin Media complies with court orders but we strongly believe that tackling the issue of copyright infringement needs compelling legal alternatives, giving consumers access to great content at the right price, to help change consumer behaviour.

While the latter statement might seem to be an argument aimed at placating Anonymous, who has long complained about the lack of solid legal alternatives to filesharing, it could also simply be an add for Virgin Media's new online music service.

Virgin's executive office is in New York City, United States and its operational headquarters are in Hook, United Kingdom.  Many Americans know the company best for the founder of its parent Virgin Group, Richard Branson.  Richard Branson has been a flashy figure, pushing such high-tech ventures as consumer space flight and deep-sea exporation.

Despite the blockade, The Pirate Bay remains accessible for Virgin Media customers if they use Anonymouse or other proxy services.

Sources: Anonymous UK [Twitter], The Register

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