Hackers retaliate over Megaupload website shutdown

 
Megaupload screenshot Megaupload displayed a video with celebrity endorsements before it was shut down

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Hackers have targeted the US government and copyright organisations following the shutdown of the Megaupload file-sharing website.

The Department of Justice (DoJ), FBI and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) among others have been bombarded with internet traffic.

Web links have been been distributed which, when clicked, make the user's computer part of the attack.

A statement attributed to Anonymous claimed responsibility.

Blackout protest

The DoJ announced on Thursday that it had taken action to force Megaupload and related domain names offline, and had charged the firm's co-founders and others with violating piracy laws.

Four of the employees have been arrested in Auckland, New Zealand, at the request of the US authorities.

Four Megaupload employees appeared in court in New Zealand

Police also seized cash, valuable cars and a short-barrelled shotgun from the residence of the website's German founder, Kim Dotcom, formerly known as Kim Schmitz.

They appeared in court on Friday. One of their lawyers initially objected to media requests for photographs, but the accused said that they did not mind "because we have nothing to hide".

Their Hong Kong-based site had around 150 million users and 50 million daily hits. It had received celebrity endorsements from the model Kim Kardashian and singers Alicia Keys and Kanye West among others, making it one of the net's most high-profile file sharing sites.

The business had said it had been diligent in responding to complaints about pirated material.

News of the arrests came the day after thousands of websites had taken part in a "blackout" to protest against proposed anti-piracy laws; however, the DoJ suggested the two matters were not related.

A statement from the department noted that a grand jury indictment against the Megaupload employees was issued on 5 January.

'Unwanted traffic'

Hours later a statement linked to the @AnonymousWiki twitter account announced: "We Anonymous are launching our largest attack ever on government and music industry sites. Lulz. The FBI didn't think they would get away with this did they? They should have expected us."

It said that 10 sites had been taken offline in response to the Megaupload shutdown including the FBI, Universal Music, RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and Hadopi - the French government agency responsible for "protecting creative works on the internet".

On Friday, Universal's webpage said: "This site is under maintenance. Please expect it to be back shortly."

The global operation that saw megaupload.com shut down and its owner arrested is a major development in the battle over online copyright infringement.

But it leaves both sides in something of a corner. The US authorities which mounted the operation appear to have plenty of muscle to act against what they see as a serious threat to copyright owners - so why do they need the even more extensive powers which Sopa and Pipa appear to promise?

And the websites and activists which united in an effective campaign against the proposed laws on Wednesday could now be divided again.

The likes of Google and Wikipedia - which have been keen to stress that they do oppose online piracy - may find it hard to object to the FBI's actions.

While some web libertarians, who see any action against illegal file-sharing as an offence against the open internet, have applauded the attacks on US government and music industry websites.

Hadopi was also offline, reporting "technical problems". However, the other sites on the Anonymous list all loaded.

Security firm Sophos's blog said that the attacks were carried out by spreading links via Twitter and other parts of the internet which carried out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

"If you visit the webpage, and do not have Javascript disabled, you will instantly, without user interaction, begin to flood a website of Anonymous's choice with unwanted traffic, helping to perpetuate a DDoS attack," it said.

It noted that such attacks were illegal, meaning that users taking part in the action were breaking the law.

A tweet from one of the accounts associated with Anonymous suggested that efforts were also being made to resurrect Megaupload.

The attached link intermittently directed users to a site that resembled the shut down service. The address used a .bz domain name signalling it was registered in Belize.

However, one blogger warned that the site might be a scam designed to steal information from visitors to the page.

"Whenever file-sharing services go down, scammers and opportunists work quickly to ride on the wave of publicity generated by the targeted site's demise," said Andy Maxwell, co-editor of Torrentfreak.com.

"Megaupload is not yet 'back' and any site claiming to be them or says they're acting on their behalf should not be trusted."

Confusion

Analysts say that there is a risk that the Anonymous campaign could become confused with the broader campaign against the House of Representatives' Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and the Senate's Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa).

"The action against the US bills was based on websites voluntarily censoring themselves in order to protest the restriction and damage to the internet that these laws would cause," Dr Joss Wright, a fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, told the BBC.

Screenshot of new Megaupload site An unidentified group claims it is trying to return Megaupload to the web

"In one sense the actions of Anonymous are themselves, anonymously and unaccountably, censoring websites in response to positions with which they disagree.

"The goals of many Anonymous activists are a free and open internet, but the regular and blanket denial-of-service campaigns could easily be counter-productive if pro-Sopa and pro-Pipa advocates can portray these actions as representative of those who are against this legislation."

Piracy debate

Elsewhere, the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, added his support to the campaign against Sopa.

He told the Inquirer the internet needed to be protected as an open space, adding that: "Folks in the UK should not be complacent. There are plenty of laws they should look out for already on the books that also have issues."

His comment may be a reference to the UK's Digital Economy Act, passed in 2010 but not fully implemented, and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which has the backing of the EU's Council of Ministers but has yet to be ratified by the European Parliament.

Candidates for the Republican Party's presidential nomination also weighed in on the matter at a debate on Thursday night.

Newt Gingrich said: "The bill in its current form is written really badly and leads to a range of censorship that is totally unacceptable."

Republican debate Republican presidential candidates attacked the Sopa bill at their most recent debate

Mitt Romney added: "A very broad law which gives the government the power to start stepping in to the internet and saying who can pass what to whom - I think that's a mistake."

Ron Paul, who has long opposed the law, said he was pleased to see other Republicans support his stance.

"This bill is not going to pass, but watch out for the next one," he added.

Rick Santorum said he did not support the law in its current form, but said: "I'm for freedom, but I'm not for people abusing the law and that's what's happening right now."

US Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid later announced he had postponed a vote on Pipa scheduled for next week.

A statement released by his office said: "There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved... I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks."

However, Senator Reid did not provide a new date for the vote.

Europe's Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes also tweeted on the subject: "Glad tide is turning on #SOPA: don't need bad legislation when should be safeguarding benefits of open net... Speeding is illegal too: but you don't put speed bumps on the motorway."

The MPAA defends the legislation saying that the bills will "encourage innovation while preserving millions of jobs that depend on intellectual property protection".

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 258.

    254.delawair

    'FilezPirate' is not the business model you describe with FSS Records.

    FSS is honest people who own the content and had to pay to create it. They can never compete with people who pay nothing to get their content.

    That's why FSS is small and the people running 'FilezPirate' are mulit-millionaires.

    I would love to see more FSS small providers, but piracy is killing them.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 257.

    If you create a company that is obviously going to be abused, part of your company plan must be to have enough resources to stamp out or prevent abuse. I am not sure where Megaupload stands in that regard.

    As for Anonymous - I have no respect for people who try and force their agenda onto others using thug tactics. It is no better than a spoilt 5 yr old breaking someone else's toys.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 256.

    I'm sure this is a very naive question, but here goes. If Megaupload had been based in America, would they have been shut down by American authorities?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 255.

    @Gizzit
    You're absolutely right about kickstarter and bandcamp. Even Louis CK, a mainstream American comedian, made his latest stand-up concert video available to download from his site for $5. The artist sees very little financial recompense from a physical sale, so buying direct is the future. Media thieves will never pay, but I think genuine consumers feel exploited by current cd/dvd prices

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 254.

    @ jon112dk
    The 'Pirate files business model' that you mention is actually the way the industry should be: subscription based access to content. The old high-street business model is broken, as shown by the falling profits of HMV, Zavvi, etc. Think 'Lovefilm' rather than 'Blockbuster'. Type 'FSS Records' into Google to see a small record label who have embraced subscription based digital commerce.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 253.

    As per usual, a lot of fuss about not a lot. Megaupload shut down is a loss to those that used it in the manner intended, i.e. to store backups, personal files etc. Piracy will never be stopped until the price of media is drastically reduced and it makes it easier to buy the product than try and grab it from somewhere. Type War Horse xvid in Google and see what you get for example.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 252.

    250. Chrisl
    4 MINUTES AGO

    That's because there are a lot of people with an unwarranted sense of entitlement.

    Personally I'd like to see resources like kickstarter.com available in the UJ, to fund creative projects, and more widespread use of resources like bandcamp.com as a distribution model.

    The creatives deserve a fair reward for what they do...blatant piracy means they don't get it. Fair?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 251.

    Officials over christmas were upset a recent box office release was already available for download on the net even though it grossed $75 million in its first six days.
    Hopefully its this profit and not the taxpayers money that supports the download policing.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 250.

    Interesting to note that the highest rated posts are NOT negative, say's a lot don't you think?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 249.

    The commenters who doubt legitimate uses of Megaupload are wrong. Programmers of Android phones frequently store update on Megaupload as storing 100MB+ files elsewhere is expensive. Hobbyist game designers store new levels for games (maps) there - that's a huge use. People store recordings from church services and sermons. Many people use Megaupload to store backup copies from their computer.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 248.

    I bought a CD, made two copies, and gave it to two of my friends.......Lock me up and throw away the key?!

    Most recording artist's make a bulk of their revenue through touring and concerts, and if their good people will go and see them, if their rubbish people won't. They certainly don't make money through CD's as they are promotional tools, and like DVD's are totally overpriced.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 247.

    I doubt there are many legitimate users of megaupload, and have no problem with it closing down.
    The problem with online piracy is it gives those in power the excuse to push through SOPA and similar legislation, which not only tackles large scale piracy, but will also be used to restrict freedom of expression,

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 246.

    241.

    The 'pirate filez' business model only works if you get the content for free.

    If you have to pay honest wages to performers, crew etc to make the content then it falls apart.

    People talk of the 'entertainment industry' as if it is a justification when the producer is a big company. But many producers are small people making small incomes - whilst the pirates are milllionaires.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 245.

    Worrying trend here. Arrests in New Zealand. Company based in Honk Kong. How does US law apply?

    While I know Megauploads has been used for piracy, I also know that they do remove copyrighted files.

    Millions of users will have lost access to legitimate files.

    Piracy is also possible through any of the cloud services, or even simple email, are the us going to have the internet shut down?

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 244.

    So what happens when simpletons like me (who actually pay for what they consume), decide that they are tired of subsidising the pirates and thee media parasites?

    Big media goes out of business - an eternity of kitten clips and amateur video for entertainment.

    Nobody "deserves" free stuff - if you don't think it is worth the asking price, or cannot afford it, then do without it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 243.

    The surge in support for Anonymous is astonishing; at the start of the week @YourAnonNews had less than 100k Twitter followers. That's now surged to over 300k on the back of their success in opposing SOPA.

    The danger is that they overplay their hand and undo all the good work: http://edinburghuncovered.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/the-day-after-the-day-the-internet-fought-back-sopa-gets-fd-in-the-a/

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 242.

    Media companies are spending a lot of money to try and stop file sharing in the mistaken belief that file sharers will by the media if they can't share it. How many of these individuals live in countries where this material would be deemed illegal (North Korea, Burma, Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea etc.) and therefore couldn't buy it anyway? And how many just wouldn't be able to afford it?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 241.

    Ah, so the entertainment industry is squealing that their business model no longer works and their only response is to attack business models that do work? There is something wrong there. Maybe they need to adapt to the times and compete rather than squeal and wave their big stick.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 240.

    BBC moderators removing posts making comment on persons now before the courts.

    Quite correct: in an age where a comment in UK can appear on the other side of the world in milliseconds, laws to defend the rights of the accused must be global.

    Just another example of why the internet must adopt transnational laws to reflect the transnational nature of the web.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 239.

    A video, piece of music or similar is linked from youtube into facebook so it can be shared it with the world and its mother!
    I don't see either of these organisations doing a lot about this copyright infringement and I don't see the US going after facebook, youtube et al.
    Could it be these websites are US based and run.

 

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