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January 29, 2013

U.S. Department of Justice Website Hacked by Anonymous

By Christopher Mohr, TMCnet Contributing Writer

On Saturday, hackers from the online activist group, Anonymous, claimed responsibility for breaking into the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s website in an attack known as Operation Last Resort. The site’s content was replaced with a YouTube (News - Alert) video containing a nearly ten-minute long message, along with an audio transcription of the narration.

According to the video, the infiltration was because of the recent suicide of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist and founder of the website Reddit, who faced prosecution for illegally downloading content from the JSTOR database.

The video criticized the DOJ for its use of “the very real threat of highly disproportionate sentencing” to ruin the lives of those they arrest. It excoriated the FBI for its “porcine glee” for infiltrating part of Anonymous and making arrests recently.

The hacktivist group claimed it was biding its time and resisting the urge to retaliate immediately, but that it could wait no longer to respond after Swartz’ death.

Swartz was arrested in 2011 after downloading volumes of academic journal content off the JSTOR database, feeling that such content should have been available for free and not kept in fee-based repositories.

In his 2008 “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto,” Swartz expressed his objections to private companies charging fees to access academic articles:

“Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google (News - Alert) to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It's outrageous and unacceptable.”

Anonymous goes on to claim in the video that a file named Warhead-US-DOJ-LEA-2013.aes256 has been copied to several mirrors and that it will provide a redacted portion of the contents of the file to a media outlet chosen by the group.

No specifics about the file content were given, other than to suggest it could be damaging to someone if made public.

The group demands that certain reforms are made as they relate to legislation, the court system and punishment, and concludes with a strongly worded warning: “This time there will be change, or there will be chaos.”

The FBI is investigating the attack. Richard McFeely of the bureau’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services branch said the following:

"We were aware as soon as it happened and are handling it as a criminal investigation," McFeely said in an e-mailed statement. "We are always concerned when someone illegally accesses another person's or government agency's network."

As of now, was still down. 

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Edited by Braden Becker
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