News

Anonymous hackers hijack US agency website

Warwick Ashford

Hackers have embedded a video statement on the homepage of a US government agency in response to the death of digital activist Aaron Swartz.

Aaron Swartz who hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment.

The statement – purportedly from hacktivist collective Anonymous – said Aaron Swartz had died because he “faced an impossible choice” and had been forced into “playing a game he could not win.”

Swartz – an advocate of free information online and co-founder of the website Reddit – was arrested in January 2011.

He was alleged to have used the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) network to download large quantities of publicly available academic papers from the JSTOR database.

Despite JSTOR dropping its case and Swartz having access rights to the database, he was later indicted on federal charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

His girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told the Wall Street Journal that the 26-year-old Swartz was distressed because he would have to face a costly, painful and public trial.

Swartz’s federal trial was due to begin in February and, if found guilty, he could have faced up to 35 years in prison, although since his death it has emerged he was also offered a plea deal of six months.

Immediately after Swartz’s death, at least two of MIT's websites were replaced with a political message in his memory.

The memorial message also claimed to be posted by Anonymous. It called for the reform of computer crimes laws and copyright and intellectual property laws.

The latest website hijacking at the weekend – labelled "Operation Last Resort" – said the US Sentencing Commission’s website had been chosen for symbolic reasons, according to the BBC.

"The federal sentencing guidelines... enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to a fair trial, by a jury of their peers and are a clear violation of the 8th amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishments," the video statement said.

The USSC is responsible for issuing sentencing guidelines for US federal courts.


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