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Remember Those WI Recall Protests? Man Indicted for Cyberattack on Koch Industries

A Wisconsin man was charged on Tuesday for his involvement in the 2011 cyberattack on Koch Industries, in which the hacker collective Anonymous launched a series of distributed denial of service attacks on several websites associated with the company. 

Eric J. Rosol, 37, of Black Creek, Wisconsin, is charged with one count of conspiracy to damage a protected computer and one count of damaging a protected computer, according to U.S. Attorney for the district of Kansas, Barry Grissom. (Koch Industries headquarters is located in Wichita, Kansas).

An excerpt of the indictment is published at KSN News:

In February 2011, a loosely organized group of computer hackers called Anonymous began using Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels to advertise a dedicated denial of service attack against Koch industries and seeking participants to the attack. Such an attack aims at making a computer resource unavailable to users by saturating the target computer with large numbers of external communication requests. If successful, the attack causes the target computer to be unable to respond or to respond so slowly as to be effectively unavailable to users.

The attacks on Koch Industries occurred in February 2011, during the height of the Wisconsin Recall protests against Governor Scott Walker.  A faction of Anonymous had teamed up with labor unions and, in support of the protests, launched #OpWisconsin and #OpKochblock.  The press release posted by Anonymous at the time was filled with hyperbolic rhetoric, warning that “[the] Koch brothers threaten the United States democratic system and, by extension, all freedom-loving individuals everywhere.”  It read, in part:

It has come to our attention that the brothers, David and Charles Koch--the billionaire owners of Koch Industries--have long attempted to usurp American Democracy. Their actions to undermine the legitimate political process in Wisconsin are the final straw. Starting today we fight back.

Koch Industries, and oligarchs like them, have most recently started to manipulate the political agenda in Wisconsin. Governor Walker's union-busting budget plan contains a clause that went nearly un-noticed. This clause would allow the sale of publicly owned utility plants in Wisconsin to private parties (specifically, Koch Industries) at any price, no matter how low, without a public bidding process. The Koch's have helped to fuel the unrest in Wisconsin and the drive behind the bill to eliminate the collective bargaining power of unions in a bid to gain a monopoly over the state's power supplies.

As the Wisconsin recall protests heated up, calls for support and participation in the #OpWisconsin/#OpKockBlock operation were posted on progressive political websites like DailyKos (in a previous post as “Magnanimous”).  However, as more participants with Anonymous began realizing that the operation was a political one, largely orchestrated by labor unions and political activists, elements of Anonymous became angry.  A rift developed, and one of the more prolific protest participants even had his/her Twitter account hacked and defaced by fellow Anons. 

See Ars Technica:  Chaos as Anonymous attacks toilet paper, Sweden, itself

In July 2011, the FBI targeted 12 individuals in connection with the same attack on Koch industries, as published in the excerpt of an indictment posted at The Smoking Gun.  It was later determined that not all of those targets may have been directly involved in the cyberattack, and instead may have been unknowingly associated with the location or computers from which the attack was launched (for example, one named target was the father of one of the suspected hackers).  Additional raids were conducted in August of 2011, in which several high school teenagers were targeted by the FBI for their suspected involvement in the attacks. 

Since the February 2011 attacks, several hackers claiming association to Anonymous have been arrested for their involvement in other higher profile operations, some of which are also alleged to have had a possible connection to the cyberattacks on Koch Industries.  However, Rosol is the first charged in this specific incident.

If convicted, Rosol faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.

Updated 4/17/2013:  Rosol is scheduled to appear in federal court in Wichita for his initial hearing today.


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