The collective of hackers known as Anonymous attacked numerous government and recording industry websites this evening, shutting the sites down for hours as of this posting.
The attacks stem from a two year investigation into content sharing website Megaupload.com. The Department of Justice unsealed an indictment today (after waiting an extra day to avoid coinciding with the SOPA protests), shut down the Megaupload website and arrested up to eight people in connection with the bust, including Megaupload founder Kim “Dotcom” Schmitz. The actions provoked anger and triggered retaliation from Anonymous, according to Twitter accounts that regularly tweet news related to the collective of hackers.
The list of affected targets includes the Department of Justice, the FBI, Recording Industry Association of America, UniversalMusic.com, and others. There are also reports that the US Patent and Trademark Office may have been targeted as well.
From the Washington Post:
Federal authorities Thursday indicted two firms and shut down one of the Web’s most popular sites for sharing illegally pirated material, triggering a quick response from hackers who claimed credit for taking down the Web sites of the Justice Department, Recording Industry Association of America and other media companies in retaliation.
The grand jury indictment, which caps a two-year investigation, charges seven people and Megaupload.com and other related sites with running an international organized criminal enterprise. Investigators said the group generated more than $175 million in income and cost copyright owners more than $500 million.
Justice Department officials said yesterday that the timing of its indictment was coincidental and had nothing to do with a debate on Capitol Hill over a bill that took aim at piracy online.
“This action is among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States,” the Justice Department and FBI said in a statement.
Nevertheless, the federal action angered hackers, escalating the growing battle between the Web’s powerbrokers, both legitimate and illicit, and Washington, which has been seeking ways to clamp down on pirated content.
“The Department of Justice web server hosting justice.gov is currently experiencing a significant increase in activity, resulting in a degradation in service,” the agency said in a statement. “The Department is working to ensure the website is available while we investigate the origins of this activity, which is being treated as a malicious act until we can fully identify the root cause of the disruption.”
“Our website and many others, including the Department of Justice, were attacked today and the hacker group Anonymous is taking responsibility for the attacks,” the statement read.
“The motion picture and television industry has always been a strong supporter of free speech,” the statement added. “We strongly condemn any attempts to silence any groups or individuals.”
You can read the complete 72-page indictment here or below:
This story is still developing, so be sure to check back with Big Government for more on Anonymous’ activity and on the Justice Department’s investigation and indictment of Megaupload.com.