Collective power of 4chan and Anonymous: the future of cyber protests

4chan is a popular image board community that made lolcats and Rickroll into Internet memes. 4chan users have often defended cats and were credited with leading the "Anonymous" assault on the Church of Scientology. Everyone knows not to cross 4chan, but whether you love them or hate them, hundreds of thousands of sympathizers, who had never before been on 4chan, joined the fight against the entertainment industry this weekend. On Friday, 4chan announced a coordinated and massive DDoS attack. The story was reported by Sean-Paul Correll of Panda Labs and gained attention from people who do not frequent 4chan. Correll was the first to announce,"This is the future of cyber protests."

A massive group of angry cyber protesters, known only as Anonymous, launched successful "attacks" against Aiplex Software, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Aiplex, an Indian firm that works for Bollywood film studios, had deployed DDoS attacks on websites hosting BitTorrent trackers and that had disregarded takedown notices. That is the reason that the DDoS style attack was chosen for "Operation: Payback Is A Bitch." 

The reactions to such attacks from Anonymous hackers were mixed with everything from "Woot" to "It's illegal" to SC Magazine calling 4chan a "cyber espionage group." Other commenters asked, "What long-lasting purpose was there to taking down entertainment industry websites?" Perhaps the biggest purpose it served was the warning shot heard around the globe about the collective power of anonymous people. "The Anonymous - We are the unknowns. We are the masked vigilante of our society. And we are everywhere."

Here is the latest 4chan flyer:


There are low, dark murmurs that DDoS may have been a "good tool" to involve people in a protest. It requires very little "hacking" skill to lock and load Low Orbit Ion Cannons (LOIC) or JavaLOIC and follow simple instructions on how to use the LOIC for each attack. Anyone with internet access could have participated. TorrentFreak wrote, "With some loose coordination through a community like 4chan, or indeed via like-minded individuals in any other Internet-based community, large amounts of attention can be brought to a cause. So can this type of action gain traction? Well, if nothing else, it certainly can't be stopped, which raises some interesting points."

Right or wrong ethically, The Pirate Bay was beloved by hundreds of millions of users. This seems to have been proven as people bonded together to #savetpb. The 4chan group posted their targets on the web. 4chan and the wrath of Anonymous brought down the entertainment industry with packet floods in a distributed denial of service, the same way The Pirate Bay and other file sharing sites were brought down by anti-piracy groups.

Sean-Paul Correll of Panda Labs kept people updated on both his original post and his tweets by lithium. He brought up an excellent point,  "If you take your site down 'voluntarily' to avoid attack, then you are in fact assisting the attackers in achieving their goal." Regardless of how the entertainment industry will try to paint the DDoS attacks, a flood of celebratory tweets were marked with the hashtag #4chan.

Sophos Chester Wisniewski advised people not to participate in "this criminal madness." He also reported, "The people who are being lured into participating may not recognize that DDoSing is criminal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The fact that a few thousand people can bring major websites to their knees is a bit scary. There are rumors that some 4chan members may be using botnets in the attack as well which introduces even more legal concerns." Wisniewski admitted, however, that 4chan took on the MPAA, RIAA and Airplex...and won.

As of the time of this posting, the "score" is: Total MPAA downtime = 21 hours 49 minutes. Anon Google-bombed "ROBERT PISANO MPAA CEO ARRESTED FOR CHILD MOLESTATION!" RIAA attack concluded after 37 interruptions and 1hr 37min of downtime. British Phonographic Industry (BPI) went down for short time periods.

Whether you agree with activism or hacktivism, the loudest point that seems to have been made is that an anonymous collection of people, known as Anonymous, showed the world the future of cyber protests. As Torrentfreak said: "No lawyer, no injunction and no police force can stop these kind of attacks from happening and those carrying them out love the sense of power, the sense of payback they provide."

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon