Over the weekend, the hacktivist group Anonymous staged multiple attacks on the U.S. Sentencing Commission website, for a time turning the site into a playable version of the game Asteroids. The group said it had hacked the site in order to protest the government’s treatment of Aaron Swartz, a programmer and Reddit co-founder who recently committed suicide.
Slate’s Will Oremus reported, “As part of its ongoing protest of the U.S. government’s prosecution of computer programmer and activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide on Jan. 11, Anonymous this weekend hacked the website of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, www.ussc.gov. The initial hack was standard Anonymous fare, replacing the USSC homepage with a video in which a creepy computerized voice spouted pompous pseudo-revolutionary threats. But after the site went offline and then was restored, it was infiltrated again on Sunday—and Anonymous social media accounts distributed code that turned the USSC homepage into a playable game of Asteroids. Anyone who visited the site and typed in the Konami code could use a missile-equipped Nyan Cat to blast away at the various text and graphical elements on the page, revealing a Guy Fawkes mask underneath.”
InformationWeek’s Mathew J. Schwartz added, “Anonymous said it selected the Sentencing Commission’s website for its obvious relevance to Swartz’s case. ‘Two weeks ago today, a line was crossed. Two weeks ago today, Aaron Swartz was killed. Killed because he faced an impossible choice,’ read the Anonymous statement. ‘Killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win — a twisted and distorted perversion of justice — a game where the only winning move was not to play.'”
Fast Company’s Addy Dugdale noted, “Those responsible claim they have obtained encrypted government files, as well as the encryption codes, and will release them if the government fails to implement legal reform of the justice system. This is the latest of Anonymous’ high profile hacks– last year they managed to hack into the Israeli Vice PM’s social media pages after bringing down one of the country’s governmental websites. And last week, the MIT website was defaced in retribution for the Reddit co-founder’s death.”
In an effort to combat groups like Anonymous and hackers associated with foreign governments, the U.S. Department of Defense has announced that it will increase its cybersecurity forces. According to The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima, “The Pentagon has approved a major expansion of its cybersecurity force over the next several years, increasing its size more than fivefold to bolster the nation’s ability to defend critical computer systems and conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries, according to U.S. officials. The move, requested by the head of the Defense Department’s Cyber Command, is part of an effort to turn an organization that has focused largely on defensive measures into the equivalent of an Internet-era fighting force. The command, made up of about 900 personnel, will expand to include 4,900 troops and civilians.”