August 18, 2012
As British police prepared to storm the Ecuadorian embassy and kidnap Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in violation of international law, a shadowy hacker group launched a denial of service attack on Russia Today’s web servers.
“An anti-WikiLeaks group has admitted responsibility for a sustained DDoS attack that made the Russia Today website intermittently unavailable on Friday,” John Leyden writes for The Register.
“The Kremlin-funded channel features a talk show hosted by Julian Assange but posts by AntiLeaks, the group which launched the attack, suggest the assault has more to do with the controversial guilty verdict in the trial of Russian feminist punk rockers Pussy Riot.”
Likewise, the group that has attacked RT looks to be the brainchild of U.S. intelligence, although they claim to be patriotic Americans who consider Assange a terrorist. The group’s professed leader, going by the name “DietPepsi,” posted a tweet on August 8:
We are young adults, citizens of the United States of America and are deeply concerned about the recent developments with Julian Assange and his attempt at asylum in Ecuador.
Assange is the head of a new breed of terrorist. We are doing this as a protest against his attempt to escape justice into Ecuador. This would be a catalyst for many more like him to rise up in his place. We will not stop and they will not stop us.
Antileaks registered its Twitter account on August 4, when it claimed responsibility for taking down the Wikileaks site earlier this month.
Geek sites have questioned the ability of the group to successfully engage in the sort of sophisticated denial of service attack that struck the Wikileaks website.
“Now we have something new a group called AntiLeaks has popped up and managed to drop a 10GB/s + DDoS attack on WikiLeaks, their affiliate sites and mirrors. This is something pretty spectacular when you think about it,” Sean Kalinich wrote for Decrypted Tech on August 8.
Kalinich went on to speculate that “recent technologies used to attack Torrent swarms that have popped up in the US” may be responsible for the Wikileaks attack. Corporate giant Microsoft has thrown its weight behind an effort to disrupt peer-to-peer torrent networks.
More likely, the Pentagon or one of its contractors is behind the attack on RT, a media network funded by the Russian government, considered a designated enemy in cyberspace.
The Pentagon has not been shy about its decision to attack enemies in cyberspace. It has turned to the private sector for help in building something called “Plan X,” an ambitious “new phase in the nation’s fledgling military operations in cyberspace,” according to the Washington Post.
Back in 2008, the Pentagon’s Information Operations Roadmap designated the internet as an enemy “weapons system” and declared that the military must be ready to “fight the net.”
Col. Charles W. Williamson III, writing for the Armed Forces Journal, proposed denial-of-service attacks against official enemies. “The days of the fortress are gone, even in cyberspace. While America must harden itself in cyberspace, we cannot afford to let adversaries maneuver in that domain uncontested. The af.mil botnet brings the capability to help defeat an enemy attack or hit him before he hits our shores,” Williamson explains.
“To the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States, the Pentagon has added WikiLeaks.org, a tiny online source of information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret,” the New York Times reported in 2010. A Pentagon report said “WikiLeaks.org represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, OPSEC and INFOSEC threat to the U.S. Army.”
DietPepsi knows many observers will conclude that the anti-Wikileaks operation is run by the U.S. government. “I want to make it clear to all the conspiracy theorists out there that we have nothing to do with the United States Government or Trapwire,” DietPepsi wrote in an email to The Register.
Following the Antileaks attack, another shadowy group entered the fray. Anonymous – or somebody claiming to be the hacker group – posted the following video: