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FBI targets 12 ‘Anonymous’ hacktivists over Koch Industries cyber attack

As part of an ongoing investigation into “coordinated cyber attacks against major companies and organizations” by members of the hacktivist collective “Anonymous,” the FBI is investigating 12 individuals suspected of participating in cyber attacks against business websites operated by Koch Industries.

Koch Industries owners Charles and David Koch were being targeted by the group, an open letter from February stated, for their attempts “to usurp American Democracy.” The two were chief financiers of the tea party movement and supporters of Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker.

According to a confidential FBI affidavit obtained by The Smoking Gun, the 12 suspects allegedly participated in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on Koch Industries sites in February and March. The attacks attempt to disrupt sites availability by overwhelming them with meaningless web traffic, slowing the site down and sometimes knocking it offline entirely.

Federal agents launched an investigation into the DDoS attacks against Koch Industries sites after the company contacted the agency on February 27 to report that its Quilted Northern site was being attacked.
The FBI was able to identify 12 targets thanks to firewall logs provided by Koch.

They are being investigated for causing the transmission of “a program, information, code, or command” that intentionally causes damage to a “protected computer.”

A journalism student at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas faces up to 15 years in prison and $500,000 in fines if she is convicted of hacking charges related to “Anonymous.”

In a campaign known as “Operation Payback,” members of “Anonymous” succeeded in taking down the online operations of PayPal, MasterCard Worldwide, Visa, Swiss bank PostFinance and others after the companies dropped their financial services to WikiLeaks.

The DDoS attacks against PayPal violated federal laws against “unauthorized and knowing transmission of code or commands resulting in intentional damage to a protected computer system,” according to the FBI.

She was one of 14 individuals arrested nationwide for participating in the attacks against PayPal. She faces charges of conspiracy to “commit intentional damage to a protected computer” and for alleged damage caused by the attack.

The DDoS attacks were performed using a piece of old server stress-testing software called “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” (or “LOIC,” a name taken from PC strategy game Command and Conquer.)

Researchers in the Netherlands, at the University of Twente, found that using the LOIC exposed users to being identified unless traffic was routed through anonymous relay software, like Tor.

“[Attacks] generated by this tool are relatively simple and unveil the identity of the attacker,” they wrote. “If hacktivists use this tool directly from their own machines, instead of via anonymization networks such as Tor, the Internet address of the attacker is included in every Internet message being transmitted.”

Operating the LOIC directly, they said, is akin to “overwhelming someone with letters, but putting your address at the back of the envelope.”

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