The website of America’s largest bank appeared to be suffering sporadic downtime on Monday afternoon amid a flurry of voluntary distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks from “hacktivist” group “Anonymous.”
While the site was still available at time of this story’s publication, reports were surfacing across Twitter noting infrequent outages. Raw Story was able to confirm, via two third party website verification services, the site’s technical difficulties on Monday (with screenshots here and here).
Greg Mitchell, who pens The Nation‘s media blog, also noted sporadic outages on Bank of America’s domain.
“Anonymous” had declared a cyber war against Bank of America over its refusal to process payments for secrets outlet WikiLeaks, which had claimed it possessed a large trove of files from a hard drive belonging to one of the bank’s executives. Other groups recently targeted for voluntary DDoS attacks included PayPal’s blog, MasterCard Worldwide, Visa and Swiss bank PostFinance.
The attacks were a response to the financial community’s decision to stop serving funds to WikiLeaks. PayPal, MasterCard and Visa have all suspended their business with the site.
While prior efforts by “Anonymous” were successful in causing service interruptions at MasterCard and PostFinance, other attacks against Amazon.com — which kicked WikiLeaks off its servers — and Twitter — which banned an “Anonymous Operations” account for its participation in the campaign — ended in failure with the sites still online.
Other sites, such as those for Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, were also recently targeted and subsequently went offline under a barrage of Internet traffic.
While much of the international press characterizes the efforts of “Anonymous” as “hacking,” use of the term appears to reflect a mis-perception of reality, according to Evgeny Morozov, who wrote recently in Foreign Policy that voluntary DDoS networks actually represent the next generation sit-in protest.
“[Both] aim at briefly disrupting a service or an institution in order to make a point,” he opined. “As long as we don’t criminalize all sit-ins, I don’t think we should aim at criminalizing all DDoS.”
The New York Times, in an editorial published Saturday, argued that the world’s largest financial institutions lining up against WikiLeaks posed a disturbing problem.
“What would happen if a clutch of big banks decided that a particularly irksome blogger or other organization was ‘too risky’?” they asked. “What if they decided — one by one — to shut down financial access to a newspaper that was about to reveal irksome truths about their operations? This decision should not be left solely up to business-as-usual among the banks.”