Anonymous is planning to launch a cyberattack this weekend against the website of the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency holding a meeting of 190 governments to discuss political and commercial control of the Internet, a security firm says.
The ITU-organized World Conference on International Telecommunications runs Dec. 3-14 in Dubai. The secretive meet has sparked rage within Anonymous and the blogosphere over a Russian proposal to hand control over the Internet to the ITU.
Such conspiracy theories are unlikely to become reality, experts say. That's because such a move would require an international consensus, and many countries would oppose such a proposal, including the U.S.
Nevertheless, the hacktivist collective Anonymous posted a YouTube video last week denouncing the ITU meeting and warning of "grave consequences" to human rights.
On Wednesday, a small Anonymous group launched a denial of service (DoS) attack that took the ITU site offline temporarily, said Carl Herberger, vice president of Radware security solutions, which specializes in securing applications against cyberattacks.
"It's very plausible they ran a reconnaissance run," Herberger said.
While it's possible the attack simply failed due to ITU defenses, Anonymous will often test the tools it will use before launching a full-blown distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, Herberger said.
Discussions in online chat rooms used by Anonymous indicate that its members plan to launch a cyberattack against the ITU site Dec. 8, Herberger said. "They're planning a very large attack on the 8th."
"Society's increasing reliance on the Internet makes organizations of all kinds potentially vulnerable to attacks of this sort, so hacktivism looks set to continue into 2013 and beyond," the report said.
The last ITU meeting took place 1988, when the Internet was in its infancy. The current gathering is to deal with business issues, such as changes in the way people pay for Internet services, experts says.
Hamadoun Toure, secretary general of the ITU, says members will also discuss ways to provide affordable access to the billions of people worldwide who can't go online. In addition, the gathering will review for the first time in a quarter-century the International Telecommunications Regulations that govern worldwide connectivity.
And yet, organizations ranging from Internet companies, trade unions and environmental activists fear the talks will lead to increased censorship and other steps to stifle Internet freedom. Google has begun gathering signatures online opposing such actions.