In recent years hacking has been a big part of the media for some time and have been a concern of internet users since their reported formation in 2003. Over time their popularity and following appears to have grown and although arrests have been made and individuals have been seen to be following the group’s activities and encouraging them to continue. As you would expect there are many other people that hope to see the downfall of the group and ensure that they never hack again, but thus far many of their attacks are rumoured or harmless and very few have been seen to cause damage with a wide majority presenting more of a protest than an attack.
American legal systems are taking the group very seriously but they are known to be an international organisation, the main problem is that the internet is so big and difficult that no one knows where to find the group, where they communicate, who leads and instructs them or what their objectives are remain unknown. Arrests have so far been unhelpful to the police in the pursuit of the group, with those who have been found and arrested being unable to provide any information or simply unwilling to do so, it is a group that appears to be surprisingly loyal and the results of their latest activity could call for a reform in hacking laws.
Laws around the use of computers and the internet have changed a good deal over the last two decades, but rather than just changing they have expanded repeatedly to a point where they no longer make a great deal of sense. This resulted in a case against twenty-six year old Aaron Swartz, who was found dead on January 11th, 2013, it is widely suspected that he committed suicide as a result of pressure from prosecutors who are reported to have threatened him with prison and a fine of up to one million dollars. This was following the case in which Aaron Swartz allegedly downloaded millions of documents through the MIT network.
Aaron Swartz was considered an internet activist and argued that the documents he was accused of downloading were produced through public funding and thus should be publicly available; it is thought that his intention was to make the documents freely available over the internet. Following this the activist group Anonymous reportedly hacked MIT, inciting a denial of service attack that prevented users on campus from accessing or using the systems for almost three hours. A memoriam to Aaron Swartz appeared briefly on the MIT website, stating the hacktivist views on Aaron’s death. The reason for Anonymous taking an interest in the case lies undoubtedly in the reasons why Swartz acted as he did as well as Swartz’s accomplishments; what is less known about the young man is that he was very accomplished in the industry, having co-authored the RSS specification at just fourteen years old, founded Infogami, which has since merged with Reddit, founded Demand Progress and completed a fellowship on Institutional Corruption at Harvard’s Ethics Center Lab.
As is often the case with hacking cases the law seems to have more of a problem with what was done, rather than the actual hacking or intentions behind it, and of course in cases like these focus on the theft of information. However some sources indicate that there could have been problems during the case to indicate whether or not this was a case of unauthorized access as the current US law states that unauthorized access requires the damage or theft resulting in a cost of $5000 or more, Swartz’s damages were not valued above this threshold. The law intends to change the specifications; in particular what activity falls under the term unauthorized access, however there are hopes that Anonymous’ recent petition to have DoS attacks legalized as a form of protesting considered during the process.
Kate writes for Dimasoft Ltd a company specialising in a range of online solutions including software design and ethical hacking.