The past week has seen a series of denial-of-service attacks on services like Paypal and Amazon, which have been characterized as a hacker retaliation for how these services have treated Wikileaks. Since I wrote my dissertation on hacktivism — politically motivated computer hacking — I’ve been interested to watch the conflict evolve, and to see how it’s been covered.
When I spoke with the Globe & Mail’s Omar El Akkad last week for his article, 2010: The Year of the Hacker, I said the following:
For most of us, the Internet is just a means to an end…But for a certain community of people, the Internet is an end in of itself. On an issue like [WikiLeaks], they’re not identifying with the U.S. or the U.K. or Sweden – they’re citizens of the Internet.
If you really want to understand how the Wikileaks backlash fits into the bigger picture of the Internet community, however, you’ve got to read last week’s press release from 2600 Magazine. 2600 is probably the closest thing the hacker community (really, many communities) has to an “official” voice, and its comments on Wikileaks get right to the point:
These attacks, in addition to being a misguided effort that doesn’t accomplish very much at all, are incredibly simple to launch and require no technical or hacker skills. While writing such programs requires a good degree of ingenuity and knowledge of security weaknesses, this doesn’t mean that everyone who runs them possesses the same degree of proficiency, nor should we necessarily believe people who claim to be doing this on behalf of the hacker community.
What the above named corporations have done to Wikileaks is inexcusable and constitutes a different sort of denial of service attack, one that is designed to eliminate an organization, an individual, or an idea. We find it inexplicable that donations can easily be made to hate groups and all sorts of convicted criminals through these same services, yet somehow a website that publishes leaked information – and which has never been charged or convicted of a crime – is considered unacceptable. We believe it’s not the place of credit card companies or banks to judge the morality or potential threat level of anyone, let alone those who are following in the long tradition of journalists and free speech advocates worldwide.
I highly recommend reading the entire press release here.