Thursday, 30 September 2010

ACS:Law pwnd by anonymous/4Chan

Anonymous at Scientology in Los Angeles

Image by Vincent Diamante, 2008, Flickr

Over the past week ACS:Law, a legal firm named and shamed in the House of Lords due to the number of complaints made about it to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, suffered a DDoS attack orchestrated by 'anonymous' users of the popular image board 4chan as part of Operation Payback.  This was one in a number of attacks which sought to target organisations and groups who many have thought to have been rather heavy handed in their dealings with the enforcement of supposed copyright infringements. I use the term 'supposed' here purposefully as several of the accused in this case deny any involvement in downloading illicit material at all (see the comments at the bottom of this BBC story)

For background to the story it's worth visiting TorrentFreak and the Guardian coverage for a decent overview.  Suffice to say, following the attack ACS:Law jeopardised the privacy of its intended targets by exposing its entire email database which has since been downloaded, archived and distributed across the web via sites like The Pirate Bay.  Data about 8000 internet customers solicited by ACS:Law on behalf of the copyright owners from internet providers like BT and Sky and several others firms (Plusnet) was passed to the legal firm in an encrypted form (passwords to the data were issued via telephone), only for this data to emerge unprotected when the website was restored.  This is something the Information Commissioner might take an interest in.  They have the power to levy a fine of up to £500,000 on the law firm.  Yesterday they posted a statement (.pdf)  claiming:
The ICO takes all breaches of the Data Protection Act very seriously. Any organisation processing personal data must ensure that it is kept safe and secure. This is an important principle of the Act. The ICO will be contacting ACS:Law to establish further facts of the case and to identify what action, if any, needs to be taken.
Reporting on yesterday evening, Josh Halliday noted that BT have serious doubts regarding the integrity of the process being used by rights holders to enforce copyright infringement claims.  They join TalkTalk and Virgin Media in expressing in their lack of cooperation with ACS:Law. When the ill-considered processes brought about by the Digital Economy Act start to be implemented next year, in which IP addresses accused of copyright infringement are issues gradated warning letters, these service providers may have very little choice but to comply with firms like ACS:Law, despite the problems associated with the veracity of the methodologies employed for data gathering (never mind establishing who is individually responsible for each supposed infringement).

Punitive threats at a national level to the identity of internet users accused of sharing copyright controlled content aside, the identity of the anonymous group of 4chan remains difficult to pin down. They did however include the following message bundled with the archive of emails:

Homepage of Operation Payback:
(Valid as of 24/09/10, things may have changed from then.)


To whom it concerns,

Over the past years we have seen an technological revolution. One where you are free, in the most extreme anarchistic sense, to share ideas. Some of these ideas are shared behind proxies, darknets, or similar "closed doors", but the ideas are out there. This kind of revolution is of the mind, and its effects on respective societies is all but surprising. While the people embrace this revolution, this new "anarchy" of freedom to share, leaders have crushed and seek to crush it before it even begins in earnest. 

These "anarchists", who are only anarchists in the minds of leaders seeking to destroy this freedom, have succeeded en-mass in distributing content to the poor, the underpriveleged, the restricted. The most popular pirates are the chinese, whose content filters restrict a vast amount of content from them. The second most popular, the poor, who cannot afford things like college books or entertainment. Indeed, while mostly ignored, a vast amount of educational literature is available to the everyday pirate. Enough that saw me through college, even, when I otherwise could not have afforded it.

It is no different, though, than when these powers that be tried to silence the record player, the cassette, the CD. The same claims were made then, and they were ignored, so why now are they listened to? This flawed application of extremist capitalism upon what is considered sacred by any culture - knowledge - is treason upon every human. All should have the right to listen to that beat, experience that twist in a plot, or learn from the mass volumes of literature now made available.

You already know this, however. You know it when you freely give your unused software, illegally I might add (remember: You don't own the software you buy [1]), to a friend or acquaintence. You know it when you give that old college book to a persin in need. You know it when little girls are basically raped in the name of "justice" [2]. You know it when thousands of bullshit legal letters are sent to SCARE money out of people [3]. You know it when such organizations lie through their teeth, produce false documents, and spread misinformation about its opponents [4]. You know that this is not right when your leaders inexplicably support massive capitalist enterprises over the majority opinion of their own people [5]. You know they are wrong when they use illegal means to get what they want, while simultaneously bashing us for doing the same [6].

If you were to assume the propaganda of various community-reputable organisations such as...

    The Motion Picture Association of America [MPAA]
    The Recording Industry Association of America [RIAA]
    The British Phonographic Industry [BPI]
    The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft [AFACT]
    Stichting Bescherming Rechten Entertainment Industrie Nederland [BREIN] would have heard many a story that if you say, 'pirate' a film or an album, you are depriving a simple artist, actor or crewmember from their rightful wage. They won't be able to break even for their next lot of groceries - and YOU robbed them of THEIR money. Money that they only see a small percentage of, they carefully omit. Do they ever tell you how small of a percentage most script writers, novelists, etc, actually make? No, and there is a reason why. Do they tell you how much THEY, the anti-piracy organizations, make? No, and there is a reason why.

In the end, our DDoS efforts have been compared to waiting for a train [7]. What do we have to do to be heard? To be taken seriously? Do we have to take to the streets, throwing molitovs, raiding offices of those we oppose? Realize, you are forcing our hand by ignoring us. You forced us to DDoS when you ignored the people, ATTACKED the people, LIED TO THE PEOPLE! You are forcing us to take more drastic action as you ignore us, THE PEOPLE, now.

We will not stop.

We will not forget.

We will prevail.

We are anonymous.

[4] We DID NOT attack the pirate party, we ARE NOT affiliated with anti-scientology activism, and The Pirate Bay has not organized this.

I await future developments in this story with baited breath