Hackers up in arms over Minister's 'open-ended' order

Thu, Jan 26, 2012, 00:00

ANALYSIS:WHY ARE international hackers so exercised by an unpublished piece of Irish legislation that they stayed up on Tuesday night trying to attack the websites of the Departments of Justice and Finance?

Minister of State for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock is proposing to publish a ministerial order that would allow record labels and other copyright holders to seek legal injunctions against internet service providers if they believe they are providing access to websites containing copyrighted material.

The open-ended nature of Sherlock’s proposal has internet users up in arms, and it has been compared to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in the US. That legislation is now dead in the water after a massive online campaign, which saw Wikipedia voluntarily taking itself offline for 24 hours last week.

On Monday the StopSOPAIreland campaign went online seeking signatures for a petition to get Sherlock to abandon his plans. The Minister maintains he is merely complying with European law.

The campaign attracted instant attention. Almost 22,000 people signed the petition in the first 24 hours.

It also attracted the attention of Anonymous, the loosely organised hacker group which came to global attention in 2010 with cyber attacks against Mastercard, Visa and PayPal in support of the Wikileaks whistleblower site.

Although it is notoriously difficult to even pin down who the members of Anonymous are, a Twitter account, @AnonOpsSweden, said on Tuesday night Government websites would be attacked in protest at the legislation.

According to security expert Brian Honan of BH Consulting, taking the websites down in the early hours of the morning is typical of Anyonymous’ “modus operandi”.

“Similar attacks in other countries have taken a similar approach – it’s a wake up call,” said Honan. “Anonymous will now try to recruit people into the campaign and the more they recruit the more effective it will be.”

Anonymous volunteers download a piece of software called Low Orbit Ion Cannon (Loic), which floods a website with traffic making it unavailable to genuine users. This is the type of attack used in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A subsequent attack on seansherlock.ieyesterday failed to take the site offline. While the issue is being hotly debated online it seems few people are signing up for the hacker campaign.