Federal government websites were rendered useless for a brief time Wednesday afternoon, brought down by an alleged cyberattack by the hacktivist group Anonymous in response to the passing of Bill C-51.
Anonymous frequently uses Distributed Denial of Service (Ddos) attacks to temporarily shut down the websites of its targets. The attacks utilize a number of “bots” to essentially overwhelm the site and cause it to fail.
The idea of the attacks are simple, but on this scale, Carmi Levy, a technology analyst and journalist based in London, Ontario said “these are not just kids in mom and dad’s basement.”
Nor are they normal hackers, Levy said. Anonymous hackers don’t generally steal information, and don’t resell it. Instead, Levy said, they seek to gain attention for issues they find important.
“The fact that we are talking about them at this level, in this way, and that this happens fairly regularly suggests that anonymous is really achieving its goals of raising awareness in issues,” he said.
“You hate to give credit to hackers… but at the same time it’s hard to deny that their MO, their method of operations, is indeed highly successful.”
The cyberattack is not the first time the anonymous hacktivists, which hide their faces with Guy Fawkes’ masks, have inserted themselves into Canadian politics.
The 2012 Quebec protests
Anonymous took up arms against Quebec’s Bill 78 in 2012, hacking into the Grand Prix’s website and stealing, then distributing the personal information of ticket-buyers.
Bill 78 was the emergency legislation the Quebec government passed in an effort to stop ongoing protests over tuition hikes by banning protests. The bill passed on May 18, 2012 by a vote of 68-48 despite Anonymous’ involvement and expired on July 1, 2013.
The Rehtaeh Parsons case
Anonymous also inserted itself into the Rehteah Parsons case, threatening to release the names of four boys accused of raping Parsons before she killed herself in 2011. The hactivist groups urged the RCMP and Nova Scotia government to open a second investigation, after the first, which lasted 18 months, was dropped due to a lack of evidence.
“Justice Minister Ross Landy says that it’s important for Nova Scotians to have faith in their justice system,” said a representative of Anonymous in the video.
“Mr. Landy – justice is in your hands.”
The RCMP confirmed shortly after Anonymous’ threats that it had reopened the investigation. The hactivist group wasn’t satisfied however and three months later released the names of four boys it accused of being involved in Parsons’ rape. The names weren’t published by media organizations due to the boys being young offenders and no charges being laid.
Two men were charged in connection with the case, both pleading guilty to various offences.
Class of DDS 2015 Gentleman
A group purporting to be associated with Anonymous gave Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia an ultimatum, threatening to release the names of the dental students active in the sexually offensive “Class of DDS 2015 Gentleman” Facebook page.
Anonymous’ demands included taking steps to expel all members involved in the group, launch an investigation into the handling of the case, and create a plan to address systemic sexism on campus.
The school had already committed to a review at the time of the demand and after a lengthy restorative justice committee, the boys were not expelled.
Anonymous did not release the names of the people involved.
Montreal police websites hacked
Hackers associated with Anonymous recently took credit for hacking the websites of the Montreal Police and its officers’ union due to recent accusations of police brutality during student demonstrations, according to CBC News.