Anonymous: PlayStation Warrants and NZ DDoS Attacks

Friday, April 29, 2011

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Reports have been circulating on the Web that implicate the rogue movement Anonymous in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that have caused intermittent downtime for New Zealand's Parliamentary website.

There are also reports speculating that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued arrest warrants for suspected Anonymous members in regards to the hacking incident that has brought the Sony PlayStation Network to a screeching halt.

Though there has not been an official press release posted on AnonNews.org announcing a DDoS attack against the New Zealand government, according to a report in Amarjit, Anonymous members had issued threats in response to pending copyright enforcement legislation:

"Anonymous said New Zealand had 'crossed the line' when it passed the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill and that a quick example would be made of the government, in a press release on their website recently. A user in the Operation Black Out IRC (chat channel) said over Easter that while there were no solid plans as of then, the government servers were 'extremely weak' and could be taken down by a person in "two minutes. The government might like to work on that. The same user claimed to have hacked a minister's website and sent a message to all the MPs who voted for the bill, expressing contrition for voting for the bill, and outlining its failures, although this has as yet not been confirmed."

Parliamentary service general manager Geoff Thorn reportedly sent an email to Ministers of Parliament confirming that the Parliament's website was in fact experiencing interruption in service due to surges in traffic, similar to that seen in a DDoS attack.

"It is possible that this traffic is related to a public threat to bring down the Parliamentary website," Thorn's email is reported to state.

Meanwhile, a report in Games Thirst that was confirmed by Kotaku asserts that the FBI has issued arrest warrants for suspected Anonymous participants in connection to attacks on the Sony PlayStation Network (PSN).

It is unclear whether the warrants were secured based on the attacks against PSN in early April that Anonymous publicly claimed responsibility for, or whether they were in relation to the subsequent PSN hack that may have exposed the account and credit card information of more than seventy million PSN customers.

The FBI's website displays no press release regarding any search warrants obtained by the Bureau in relation to the PSN attacks, and the report may mistakenly be based on warrants secured in January related to other anonymous operations.

Anonymous had called off the assault on PSN after receiving backlash from Sony customers who did not appreciate the network downtime. When the network failed again, Anonymous issued a press release on April 22 that sought to dispel any notion that the movement had taken part in the latest PSN outage:

"Sony's Playstation Network, its online service for Playstation 3 and its Playstation Portable consoles, suffered from a major outage today; which is on going as of this writting [sic]. According to Son'ys [sic] blog, the interruption in service may last into the long weekend - for at least another "full day or two". Sony released a statement through its EU blog, saying that the network outage may be a result of "targeted behaviour by an outside party", brining [sic] in the possibility of cyberattacks. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the message has since been removed. While it could be the case that other Anons have acted by themselves AnonOps wa not related to this incident and takes no responsiblity [sic] for it. A more likely explination [sic] is that Sony is taking advantage of Anonymous' previous ill-will towards the company to distract users from the fact the outage is accutally [sic] an internal problem with the companies servers."

Given the nature of the Anonymous movement, any number of subgroups could be undertaking operations that have not been adopted by the majority of the movement's followers.

While Anonymous press releases are generally a good indication of the activities that have garnered a majority consensus among members, official denials are not a reliable indication that Anonymous participants are not taking part in operations that are not sanctioned by the majority.

It is also possible that Anonymous may be attempting to deflect responsibility for certain activities undertaken by the movement's followers by asserting that an action was not condoned by the majority of the movement, while Anonymous members are in fact actively participating.

That is a major problem for the hacktivist group who maintains that there is no leadership hierarchy, though there is plenty of evidence to show that the movement is administered by a core group of instigators.

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