Good day, good day. I am here once again my fine readers to blab on about unimportant things that I have subjectively deemed interesting.
This morning I woke to find that the Department of Justice (DoJ) had shut down the streaming website MegaUpload. While this sort of action has happened before, not with as popular as a site as MegaUpload, the event coinciding with the controversy of SOPA and PIPA reaching a high on news stations was truly the reason it is attracting so much attention.
In response to this event the hacker group, Anonymous, took to their usual strategy of targeting websites with the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) that they have had such success with in the past year or so. They were successful in blocking traffic to several sites of both private ownership and public (RIAA, MPAA, FBI, DoJ, Sony, etc.). However there has been outcry within the last few hours because of a certain tactic that many Anonops participants have used in this response, OperationMegaUpload. According to Gawker, an online version of LOIC was hosted on the main file hosting site of Anonymous, PasteHTML. The link to this online version was spammed through twitter and the Anonymous IRC channels which are regularly used by not only members, but also people simply looking for a way to ‘help.’ The problem that many people are having with this tactic is that the link is blind and without prior knowledge, clicking upon it will automatically lead to the user committing a felony.
While this is a valid point, I believe that it is a shallow view of what is happening. Two things of note are occurring: 1. Anonymous is recognizing the landscape of Twitter/IRC/internet with regard to their standing in many young people’s minds and 2. Anonymous is now able to make attempts by those using the actual program with prior knowledge completely null of possible criminal prosecution.
Firstly, this is an incredible step by a digital, protesting body. While there have been hundreds of DDoS attacks in the past, none have taken this step in gaining attacking computers. Some have used bots or other hacked computers, but the use of this linking allows for the onus to still be upon the person pressing the mouse button. It was much like a person opening an email housing a virus, but instead of pure trickery, the person clicking this link was still looking for a way to help out with the attacks. Believe me, there is little reason other than that or spectating to be in the IRC channels of Anonymous. I watched their chats today mainly to see their current targets and to see if there was any reason for certain targets other than a random person sending the target over the chat.
While this move put the responsibility more on the individual user, it is more importantly a well thought use of speed in the face of speed. My biggest critique of these attacks usually involves the concept of speed. That while a hacker’s individual access and speed is great, it can always be overtaken by that of the state or corporations. No longer is the hacker ahead of the curve. However, this attempts to use one’s own speed with the unknown attribution of others. This is a conscious use of speed by the protester, but not of the user tricked into clicking the link. The consciousness lies with the linker because of the understanding that most will hear of the attacks through some form of media and then, if wanting to know more, they will search it out in a way that is juvenile to the hacker. Those that click do not understand the influence of speed in their actions. They do not understand that thousands of miles are compacted into nothingness with the click of a button. It is with this speed and ignorance that the hacker is able to not only take the speed of those that click, but also their online being.
It is through this sort of theft that we see the nullification of the possibility of criminal prosecution. It would be silly of any governmental organization to prosecute simply on the basis of IP address location at this point, as it is and will be seen as nothing more than a tactic of the ‘cyber-terrorists.’ It will be seen as evil rhetoric which had unforeseen consequences on behalf of the users. This is quite possibly the most important piece for those actively participating the response as it provides another hurdle for investigators to jump over.
So yes, maybe the move was opportunistic, but this was only possible through a greater understanding of online mentality and an ignorance of speed. However this is what is needed greatly in a war on digital oppression which has already been so victorious in reigning in the web.
The web is becoming smaller and smaller folks. We need to really decide if trickery is the biggest of our moral concerns.