One day after the extensive Internet blackout protest of SOPA and PIPA, the Department of Justice announced that it had charged the owner of the file-sharing site Megaupload with online copyright infringement.
Within hours of the shutdown, the hacker group Anonymous hit several federal and entertainment industry Websites with DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks. The sites remained offline for the rest of the day.
All this is fuel for a fire that was already raging. SOPA supporters are using the Megaupload takedown as an example of why the legislation is necessary. Anonymous and other anti-SOPA groups are using it as proof that the legislation isn’t necessary.
To start at the top, on Jan. 5, a grand jury indicted seven people and two corporations: Megaupload Limited and Vestor Limited. The charges included engaging in racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering, and criminal copyright infringement.
The leader of Megaupload is identified as Kim Dotcom (born Kim Schmitz, aka Kim Tim Jim Vestor). Others charged in the indictment
include Megaupload CMO Finn Batato, graphic designer Julius Bencko, business development head Sven Echternach, the CTO and cofounder Mathias Ortmann, software development head Andrus Nomm, and Bram van der Kolk, who is in charge of the network infrastructure for the Megaupload Websites.
More than 20 search warrants were executed in the United States and eight other countries. About $50 million of assets, targeted sites where Megaupload has servers, and 18 domain names were seized.
If convicted, those involved face up to 50 years in prison on all charges.
After the indictment, Anonymous went to work. A tweet posted by the hacker group said: "The government takes down #Megaupload? 15 minutes later #Anonymous takes down government & record label sites. #ExpectUs"
A blog posted by Anonymous claims credit for attacking the following sites:
- Department of Justice (Justice.gov)
- Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA.org)
- Universal Music (UniversalMusic.com)
- Belgian Anti-Piracy Federation (Anti-piracy.be/nl/)
- Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA.org)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI.gov)
- HADOPI (HADOPI.fr)
- US Copyright Office (Copyright.gov)
- Universal Music France (UniversalMusic.fr)
- Senator Christopher Dodd (ChrisDodd.com)
- Vivendi France (Vivendi.fr)
- The White House (Whitehouse.gov)
- BMI (BMI.com)
- Warner Music Group (WMG.com)
Even though many members of Congress have changed their minds about SOPA, Anonymous contends that the raid on Megaupload "proved that the feds don’t need SOPA or its sister legislation, PIPA, in order to pose a blow to the Web." In a later tweet, Anonymous stated: "Let's just say, for #SOPA supporters their #SOPAblackout is today."
What is striking about the Megaupload takedown is not that it happened. The sites involved should have expected it. But the targets of Anonymous were either oblivious to any threat or unprepared. What is most surprising is that some of these government sites have been targeted by hackers before, and the owners do not seem to have learned their lessons very well. What steps did they take, if any, to prevent the DDoS attacks?
Meanwhile, you can bet that the DOJ and the FBI will not take the retaliation by Anonymous lightly. As much as Anonymous has been in its sights before, yesterday’s events have ensured that the DOJ will now do whatever it can to take Anonymous down.
— Karla Marciszewski is a 19-year veteran of IT in county government, beginning her career in mainframe operations. She has held several positions and now works in IT security.