“They’re not ‘Anonymous” anymore,” Rupert Murdoch’s Post cockily opens this morning’s piece on a federal raid against the activist network. The FBI executed several search warrants across the country and arrested 16 people in 10 states accused of attacks on the online payment service PayPal. None of the arrested were in New York, but two sites were searched: a home in Long Island, and one of the McKibbin loft buildings.
The residents had hastily packed up and left about a month ago, a neighbor at 255 McKibbin Street told the Post. But the residents, members of a band called “Broken Glow,” part of the Potion Collective group of bands and artists once based at defunct Potion café, didn’t leave because they knew they were being watched.
The band’s departure, however hasty, had nothing to do with the investigation into the attacks, band member Garrett Deming told BushwickBK. “Our lease was up, people knew where we were going,” Deming said. He and his roommates moved to a new apartment in North Bed-Stuy, and still visit McKibbin Street often. The wireless was unlocked, Deming said; as far as he knows, anyone on his block could have piggybacked on his internet connection.
“Anonymous” orchestrated a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on PayPal’s website. If enough people join an attack, it can hobble or shut down the targeted server. No hacking or stealing is involved.
To participate in a DDoS attack, it’s not necessary to be a hacker or have much technical expertise at all. A simple browser with a form field for a URL is the only necessary tool; during the recent Arab revolutions this was used to attack the websites of the Tunisian, Egyptian, and later Libyan governments.
PayPal had frozen the account of WikiLeaks, a website that facilitates anonymous whistleblowing, soon after the publication of diplomatic cables leaked from the State Dept. The service had also briefly shut down the account of the support network for Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of leaking the cables and other documents. Visa and MasterCard were also targeted in “Operation Payback” for refusing donations to WikiLeaks through their services.
The Post and its beleaguered owner may be feeling triumphant over the small scoops made against Nassau County 16-year-olds and underemployed band members in Bushwick. But with the recent massive, successful hackings against governments, banks, military contractors, and even “cybersecurity experts,” protectors of state secrets may be celebrating a bit too soon.
For his part, Deming is thrilled with the attention his band is getting, even if misguided. “We’re about to release a new album, I’m happy to have my band name mentioned anywhere!”