Hackers threatened to shut down the Internet on Saturday, signaling the “hacktivist” group’s growing ambitions despite increasing pressure from authorities.
Anonymous is organizing “Operation Global Blackout,” in retaliation to recent arrests of hackers and the threat of Internet legislation through SOPA. The operation would target Domain Name Service (DNS) by attacking root servers, disabling access to any and all websites.
The threat could be just that, or Anonymous hackers may only be capable of shutting down Internet service on a smaller scale. Security experts say the group is likely able to attack DNS at a targeted local scale, if it can pull off the feat at all.
But whatever the result on March 31, the attempts show the world Anonymous, fueled by ethical and moral ambitions, isn’t going away despite pushback from international governments.
“To protest SOPA, Wall Street, our irresponsible leaders and the beloved bankers who are starving the world for their own selfish needs out of sheer sadistic fun, on March 31, Anonymous will shut the Internet down,” the group stated last month. “Remember, this is a protest, we are not trying to ‘kill’ the Internet we are only temporarily shutting it down where it hurts the most.”
Anonymous has successfully hacked into a variety of sites, from local police stations to government websites to the Vatican. But it’s also made threats it never followed through on, like when it called off an attack on a drug cartel after facing retaliation.
Threats, however, continue, with more interactive targets. The FBI and global security agencies are watching Anonymous closely, and a widespread Internet shutdown would mark a historic digital attack. Also, the National Security Agency warns against an attack on the U.S. power grid, composed of millions of miles of unprotected lines. The FBI continually pursues the group, with director Robert Mueller telling Congress agents charged 16 people in more than 10 states in connection to the Anonymous investigation.
Caused by Anonymous or otherwise, Internet shutdowns can leave citizens powerless, like the government-fueled shutdown in Egypt amid Arab Spring protests. Anonymous may speak of Internet freedom against government control, but in shutting down the Internet, they’re disabling the same base they aim to protect, like in attacks against anti-piracy efforts.
Whether Anonymous pulls off Operation Global Blackout or not may depend on the success of its thousands of worldwide hackers. As world powers heighten their attention to hackers and their potential to take out vital services, more retaliation on both sides is expected as the digital world becomes the next frontier for social and political battles.