It looks like an attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website from hacktivist group Anonymous — scheduled for 8 p.m. eastern time Monday according to posts on online image board 4chan and news aggregator Reddit — passed without incident and the site is still online.
The attack was supposed to be part of a protest against anti-piracy legislation proposed in Congress called the “PROTECT IP” act — or “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property.” The hacktivist group said that the bill would allow the U.S. Government to force search engines and internet service providers to censor websites they do not like by saying it could cause copyright infringement. It wouldn’t be the first time Anonymous has taken up a political cause as the group attacked Visa and Bank of America for trying to cut off Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s website is still humming and shows no sign of slowing down. The site loaded in a few seconds around the time the attack took place and it still only takes just a few seconds to load as of 11 p.m. pacific time. It looks like Anonymous was not able to rally enough of an attacking force to bring the site offline with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack using a program called the “low-orbit ion cannon.”
The “attack” wasn’t necessarily a failure — but it just shows how divisive and amorphous hacktivist group Anonymous can be. While a number of online activists frequently claim leadership over the hacking group and release missives and press releases, it can be difficult to rally the online hackers toward a cause. It’s usually politically motivated, like when the hacktivist group brought attacked Sony after the company tried to sue a hacker for “jailbreaking” a PlayStation 3 console.
Anonymous is a murky name sweepingly applied to hackers who frequent online forums like 4chan and other news aggregators that have undertaken some of the larger political causes. But because it isn’t an official organization, it’s hard to place any faces or names to the hacktivist group and it can, at times, be a very loose organization. There are also a few reports that hackers within the quasi-group Anonymous are starting to attack each other over how the PlayStation Network attacks and responses were handled.
Sony laid indirect blame for its online gaming network, the PlayStation Network (PSN), downtime on Anonymous, which typically rallies a group of loosely connected hackers under moral or political banners to take down large companies. The company said its defenses were weakened while it was fending off DDoS attacks from Anonymous, giving hackers an opportunity to break in. Anonymous has denied that it was involved in breaking into and bringing down the PSN.