Anonymous gets NSA's attention, promises regular Friday attacks
The hacktivist collective Anonymous, whose website attacks have often been viewed by security experts as annoyances rather than serious threats, could be stepping up its game.
Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, is concerned that Anonymous could have the ability to attack the United States’ power grid within two years, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Although Alexander hasn’t spoken publicly about Anonymous, he has expressed his concerns about the group during private meetings, including at the White House, according to the WSJ, which was citing sources familiar with the meetings.
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And the group, which has claimed a series of high-profile attacks on government and corporate websites, is now promising new attacks every Friday, according to a post to the site AnonOps Communications.
On Feb. 16, Anonymous attacked the Bureau of Consumer Protection's Business Center website and the National Consumer Protection Week site run by the Federal Trade Commission, taking them offline. That follows a Jan. 24 attack on FTC’s cybersecurity advice website, OnGuardOnline.gov, which is still offline.
To date, Anonymous hasn’t made threats against the power grid, mostly targeting government and corporate sites in protest of what its members say are crackdowns on free speech, privacy or Internet freedom.
A spate of attacks followed the Jan. 18 online protests of anti-piracy legislation in Congress and the FBI’s takedown of the file-sharing site Megaupload. More recent attacks, such as those against the FTC sites, have been in protest of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, an international copyright-protection treaty that’s been in the works for years, but, like the proposed U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act, may have been derailed by protests.
Other government sites targeted recently include those of the FBI, CIA, the U.S. Copyright Office, Alabama government servers and several Mexican government sites.
The post on AnonOps Communications stated: “Each and every Friday Anonymous will be launching attacks…with the specific purpose of wiping as many corrupt corporate and government systems off our internet.”
If Anonymous, or any other hackers, are going to regularly target government sites, agencies would be well advised not to make it easy for them. The recently hit FTC sites, hosted in the cloud by a third-party provider, were without security protections because FTC had dropped security requirements from the contract to create the sites, Ars Technica reported.
In fact, quite a few recent hacks, including some of those by Anonymous, were made all too easy by the targets.
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.