Hackers, who are linked with the group known as Anonymous, have attacked the website of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in a protest over the recent inquiry on Aaron Swartz.
Pressure from the investigation and possible imprisonment apparently led to his suicide.
By the time hackers were finished, the government website displayed the game "Asteroids."
The hackers also released a fake list of federal witnesses enrolled in the Witness Protection Program, news reports said. In addition, Anonymous released allegedly encrypted secret files and warned it would release encryption keys if the U.S. Justice Department fails to undergo "reforms,” according to The Register.
On Jan. 25, the hackers displayed a video about Swartz on the commission website, followed by other attacks over the weekend.
"We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the discretion of prosecutors," the video said according to a Live Science report. "We have seen how the law is wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control."
Swartz was the subject of a government case related to the alleged download of academic documents from an online archive to a laptop at MIT (News - Alert). It related to a secure science journal archive known as JSTOR.
When local officials were handling the case, there was no jail sentence expected for Swartz. But once federal prosecutors got involved they were after as much as 50 years in prison if he was convicted, the report added.
Anonymous had previously attacked the websites of MIT and the U.S. Department of Justice websites in a statement of solidarity with Swartz, according to Live Science.
The more recent attack against the sentencing commission website included a mention of the Konami cheat code, which is related to the Nintendo Entertainment System. It included a “silhouette of the popular Internet meme ‘NyanCat,’” Live Science said. There also was the Anonymous logo.
The message of solidarity with Swartz was clear. "With Aaron's death we can wait no longer. The time has come to show the United States Department of Justice and its affiliates the true meaning of infiltration. The time has come to give this system a taste of its own medicine," the hackers’ message read in part, according to a report carried on TMCnet.
On Monday, the website of the Eastern Michigan office of the U.S. Probation Office was also attacked.
Swartz was a co-founder of Reddit and RSS, and seen as a brilliant young technological innovator.
Meanwhile, the FBI is investing the hack. "We were aware as soon as it happened and are handling it as a criminal investigation," the FBI said in a statement released to the news media. "We are always concerned when someone illegally accesses another person's or government agency's network."
The FBI has investigated Anonymous and its activities before.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman