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Anonymous, In Flurry of Post-HBGary Activity, Connected to Two Internet Attacks

BY Nick Judd | Monday, February 28 2011

The Internet collective Anonymous is connected to two attacks on conservative websites perpetrated last week.

A press release posted on an open Anonymous forum seems to take credit for about two and a half hours of downtime for the Americans for Prosperity website on Sunday. The release suggests that the attack was part of a campaign by Anonymous against David Koch, the billionaire and big political spender who with his brother Charles co-owns Koch Industries. David Koch is a supporter of Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's attempts to remove the right of public-sector unions in his state to bargain collectively for pay and benefits. He's also a donor to Walker.

Politico's Ben Smith has more, including a response from Americans for Prosperity.

But at least one member of Anonymous wants to walk back any action against Americans for Prosperity, reminding the Internet that the group is amorphous and leaderless.

Westboro Baptist Church also joined the ranks of Anonymous' victims last week. After denying that it was responsible for threats of actions against the virulently anti-homosexual organization, an Anonymous member announced during a recording of the political talk radio show The David Pakman Show posted to YouTube on Feb. 24 that the collective had hacked WBS' network.

The premise of the Pakman Show episode was to bring WBS and Anonymous into a confrontation over previous threats of online attacks against the church, although Anonymous called those threats a hoax and denied responsibility. By the time the episode was recorded, though, several WBS websites had already been rendered inaccessible. The Anon speaking to Pakman said that a hacker going by the name th3j35st3r, a self-proclaimed hacktivist not usually affiliated with Anonymous, was responsible for those attacks.

Then he changed his tone.

"What can we expect going forward, Anonymous?" radio host David Pakman asked his guest.

"Actually, I'm working on that right now," the Anon responded, later telling the WBS spokeswoman on the call, "I have a surprise for you."

According to screenshots helpfully captured and up on Salon.com, the surprise was a webpage with information about Westboro's internal network, proving that a hacker had gained control.

Nothing on Westboro's primary domain was available as of Monday afternoon.

Both representatives on the show seemed pleased with the resulting conflict. The WBS spokeswoman, Shirley Phelps-Roper, said that the resulting publicity for Westboro would be a boon from God, and the anonymous Anon on the call announced a traffic boost for a website associated with the Internet group.

"You have caused eyes all over the world to look," Phelps-Roper said.

"With us, too," the Anon countered. "I mean, the Anonnews.org, the site that that press release was posted on, that site received a 2,001 percent increase in traffic, a 3,500 percent increase in ad revenue," the Anon said.

A Twitter account that often posts information on behalf of Anonymous, @AnonymousIRC, called the joint attack on WBS a rare "cooperation" between the group and the3j35st3r.

Anonymous is gaining publicity and credibility in the wake of attacks on the information security firm HBGary Federal. After HBGary CEO Aaron Barr suggested that he was about to out leaders of Anonymous, the group tore apart HBGary's Internet security and released internal company emails, revealing a plan that HBGary had proposed to attack Wikileaks.