Anonymous hackers took down multiple Web sites involved in the SOPA/PIPA anti-piracy legislation push and Megaupload takedown, including justice.gov, RIAA.com and MPAA.com, on Thursday in an effort to protest against the bills. However, Anonymous tricked bystanders into aiding their attack.
Those who clicked on the link pointed the LOIC at targets like FBI.gov, DOJ.gov, MPAA.org, BMI.org, RIAA.org and copyright.gov, part of an effort that knocked these sites offline for parts of the day. The target works by sending an influx of traffic to a site, overwhelming its servers and shutting it down.
The ruse helped Anonymous successfully take down multiple sites affiliated with the SOPA/PIPA legislations and Megaupload takedown. However, not all Anonymous hackers, otherwise known as Anons, approved of using unwitting bystanders in the potentially illegal act.
However, it is unlikely that individuals would be singled out by authorities, according to Jennifer Granick, an attorney who has represented defendants accused of computer crimes.
If you are an unwitting participant then technically you're not liable under the law because all criminal statutes, with some narrow exceptions, require some criminal state of mind, such as acting knowingly or intentionally, she told CNET.
But even being part of a botnet could result in unwanted police attention anyway, Granick added. That's probably unlikely, depending on how many computers are involved in the DDOS attack.
For those distributing the links, a different fate exists. If you are a distributor of malware that targets a site, you can be liable for all damage that occurs to that site as a result of the malware functioning, Granick said. If you are distributing a program and intending to cause damage and that's what results, that is a violation under the law.
Anons spoke with Wired on the condition of anonymity about the trickery, condemning it. Preying on unsuspecting users is despicable, said one Anon in an online chat. We need to fight for the user, not potentially land them in jail.
On Thursday Megaupload and Megavideo, file-sharing Web sites that received more than 50 million hits per day, were taken down by the Department of Justice and its executives were arrested, including founder Kim Dotcom Schmitz. The Department of Justice said the takedown is unrelated to SOPA/PIPA legislation, but others disagreed.
You think it's a coincidence that the feds shutdown megavideo a day after the Websites blackout protesting the bills? said freelance Web producer James Buran. It's a war: Anonymos-1 Feds-1, let's see who makes the next move.
The government takes down Megaupload? 15 minutes later Anonymous takes down government & record label sites, a hacker from Anonymous tweeted.
However, Wired reporter Norton noted: While this tactic was new and unsettling, it's unlikely this script made much difference in the total level of attack traffic aimed at the DoJ. The JS LOIC is not a powerful tool for overwhelming servers, and the anonymouse.org site never went down, despite being hit every time someone used the malware LOIC on the DOJ or any other target site.