The hacker-activist group Anonymous says it hijacked the website of the U.S. Sentencing Commission to avenge the death of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide. The FBI is investigating.
The United States Sentencing Commission is an independent agency of the judicial branch of the federal government of the United States. It is responsible for articulating the sentencing guidelines for the United States federal courts. The Commission works with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which replaced the prior system of indeterminate sentencing that allowed trial judges to give sentences ranging from probation to the maximum statutory punishment for the offense. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
On Friday, 25-January 2013 the activist group Anonymous hacked the USSC website in an operation titled “Operation Last Resort”. The first, unsuccessful attack, was launched early Friday morning, followed by a second successful attack around 9pm PST the same day. By 3am PST the site was down and dropped from the DNS Domain Name System, yet the IP address (188.8.131.52) still returned the defaced site’s contents. Anonymous cited the recent suicide of hacktivist Aaron Swartz as a “line that has been crossed.” The statement suggested retaliation for Swartz’s tragic suicide, which many – including the family – believe was a result of overzealous prosecution by the Department of Justice and what the family deemed a “bullying” use of outdated computer crime laws.
It appears that via the U.S. government website, Anonymous had distributed encrypted government files and left a statement on the website that de encryption keys would be publicly released (thus releasing the as-yet unknown information held on the stolen files) if the U.S. government did not comply with Anonymous’ ultimatum demands for legal reform. Anonymous has not specified exactly what files they have obtained. The various files were named after Supreme Court judges.
“Warhead – U S – D O J – L E A – 2013 . A E E 256 is primed and armed. It has been quietly distributed to numerous mirrors over the last few days and is available for download from this website now. We encourage all Anonymous to syndicate this file as widely as possible.”
This appeared to be Anonymous sending a threatening message to whoever knows what might be on the encrypted files. Anonymous encouraged anyone and everyone to distribute the files, so it was not unknown who had the files or how many had been distributed. The files are useless without the encryption keys.