MIT acknowledged it has been experiencing a series of distributed denial of service attacks since January 13, a day after coder and activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide.
Swartz faced heavy punishment, including jail time and a $1 million fine, for siphoning off millions of JSTOR documents using MIT’s network. In the aftermath of his January 11 suicide, Anonymous, a hacktivist group, claimed to attack MIT’s system in retaliation. Anonymous’ weapon of choice is usually a DDoS attack, which overloads servers with traffic, causing them to shut down, and defacement of websites.
MIT says the attacks caused those on the school’s networks to lose Internet connectivity and delay emails.
On the first January 13 attack, Anonymous defaced MIT’s network, saying Swartz’ prosecution was a, “grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for — freeing the publicly funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it.”
MIT explained in a blog post that its systems were shut down on January 13, followed by an email outage “lasting four to six hours” five days later. Then, on January 28, MIT experienced more delays in its email service, and found the MIT website inaccessible from outside the campus.
Whether all of these attacks were associated with Anonymous is unknown, though the connection between MIT, Swartz, and the attacks is obvious.
MIT says it has “taken several measures, such as installing filters to block problematic traffic or content.”