‘Anonymous’ attack on Chamber of Commerce website doesn’t make a dent

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, May 24, 2011 14:10 EDT
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An effort by protest group “Anonymous” to rally Internet users into helping them shut down the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website fell short Monday night as the site remained online.

Unnamed members of the group, which has come to be defined by its online activities, had issued a call to digital arms on Sunday, urging supporters to join a distributed network that would stage something of an electronic sit-in on the Chamber’s servers.

It was all part of a protest against Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act — or “PROTECT IP” (PDF) for short.

The bill would give U.S. officials the power to order search engines and Internet service providers to block websites or other online content that authorities believe to be serving illegal materials. The legislative text is so broad, Internet freedom advocates claim it could even be used to shut down websites that link to other websites that authorities claim to be carrying out infringing activities.

The introduction of the PROTECT IP Act is part of a second attempt to pass provisions of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which failed to clear Congress during its last session thanks to a parliamentary maneuver by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“Instead of reducing piracy, [the PROTECT IP Act] threatens the free flow of information through domain seizures, ISP blocades, search engine censorship and the restriction of funding to accused websites,” a video allegedly from members of Anonymous explains.

“This takes Internet censorship to a new level,” they elaborated. “The Internet is a place where anyone and everyone can come together freely to share information an opinions. The freedom the Internet provides has served us well and driven our intellectual progress, sparked revolutions and changed the lives of many, all of which has been accomplished without the interference of corporations, governments or any other global institutions — until now.”

“We must unite against those who wish to censor the Internet,” Anonymous insisted.

They targeted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the video explains, because of the business lobby’s support for the PROTECT IP Act.

Lawmakers insist the PROTECT IP Act is necessary to defend intellectual property rights, which sustain some jobs in the U.S.

Unlike other high profile cyber attacks, a voluntary Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is not necessarily illegal as it is more akin to a sit-in protest than actually breaking into a system’s security. Users who join the attack simply download an antiquated piece of server stress-testing software and ask the website to do what it is made for: serve pages. If enough computers join the attack, the site stops serving pages and goes offline in the face of a torrential downpour of traffic.

Anonymous has carried out a string of highly publicized DDoS attacks over the last year against targets such as MasterCard, PayPal, Bank of America, Sarah Palin, Sen. Joe Lieberman and the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Sweden and others — most of which were successful in taking down online services or causing other interruptions.

Hackers claiming to be part of Anonymous have been blamed in recent months for a string of attacks against gaming companies, namely electronics giant Sony, which saw its online gaming services taken down after suffering the largest data theft in history.

Sony said it was not sure who attacked their systems, but pointed at a text file bearing the Anonymous slogan, allegedly left by one of the intruders. The group has vehemently denied involvement in the data theft, but members were openly engaged in a DDoS attack on one of the company’s websites when the intrusion began.

The FBI is treating some of the group’s activities as legitimate cyber crimes and a series of investigations are underway.

This video was published by YouTube user TheAnonPress on Monday, May 23, 2011.

Updated from an original version for clarity.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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