The loose-knit confederation of internet activists who organise under the banner "Anonymous" have launched a renewed distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) this week as part of "Operation Payback".
AFACT represents a number of content producers such as movie and television studios and aims to reduce the impact of copyright infringement in Australia. The group has been involved in a high-profile lawsuit against national broadband provider iiNet.
DDoS attacks attempt to cripple internet infrastructure through delivering a flood of data to servers and network infrastructure, and is an increasing attack method globally.
"Realise, you are forcing our hand by ignoring us. You forced us to DDoS when you ignored the people, ATTACKED the people, LIED TO THE PEOPLE! You are forcing us to take more drastic action as you ignore us, THE PEOPLE, now," an individual claiming to represent Anonymous stated in a letter released before the attacks.
Anonymous is well known in Australia's technology sector for what appeared to be several similar DDoS attacks earlier this year against Federal Government websites and other communications systems in protest against Labor's mandatory internet filtering policy.
Three and half hours after the attacks were timed to begin on the AFACT site, AFACT and hosting partner Netregistry experienced the effects - with the copyright group's site going down at 8am on Wednesday morning this week, according to iTNews.
"The attack consisted of 60,000 active HTTP connections and an approximate 100 megabits per second of additional bandwidth being transferred from this particular cluster where the site was located," a Netregistry spokesperson said, adding that the attacks mainly originated from Chile and Columbia.
"The AFACT website was offline due to Netregistry engineers suspending it as the target of the attack. All other sites on the shared infrastructure remained operational, albeit with some service degradation," they added. Anonymous had planned to attack AFACT for at least 12 hours.
"We’re delighted to say our infrastructure proved to be highly resilient in the face of a particularly heavy and determined DDoS attack. All affected websites remained online and were back to full performance reasonably quickly, only experiencing intermittent connection problems throughout the day," said Netregistry chief executive, Larry Bloch.
"Of course, the very nature of a DDoS attack means prevention is impossible. However, a combination of our cloud hosting infrastructure and active management dramatically reduced the potential impact for thousands of affected businesses."
"This incident vindicates our multi-million dollar ten year investment in our shared cloud hosting infrastructure. It is remarkable that a shared cloud hosting service costing our clients around $10 per month withstood one of the hacker community's most determined, coordinated DDoS attacks without failing."
The AFACT attacks also affected other Netregistry sites - although an exact figure on how many sites was affected hasn't been released. Sites affected ranged from small businesses to government sites. The hosting company posted a statement on its website for customers to make them aware that the organisation knew what was going on and what measures were been taken.
"Impact to the cluster during the peak of the attack resulted in performance degradation to websites. However, the unique cloud hosting infrastructure pioneered by Netregistry was able to scale up and carry the additional load without failing," said a Netregistry spokesperson. "There were some minor ancillary issues discovered during the attack that affected our infrastructure, but these were promptly resolved as they were identified with minimal customer impact."
"No loss of data occured, the services resumed operation once the attackers IP ranges were blocked. Email was delayed in delivery, however no bounces were caused by the issue," the site added. The Netregistry site stated that "Zeus cluster (PHP clients not utilising Apache)" had issues.
AFACT executive director Neil Gane said that this was the first attack of its kind experienced by AFACT. The executive was unable to comment on the estimated damage the attacks caused or what measures AFACT would take to identify the attackers and if they would be referring to authorities. The organisation's site is back up at time of publication.
The attacks on AFACT follow an onslaught of attacks on Stichting Bescherming Rechten Entertainment Industrie Nederland, the Motion Picture Association of Australia, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and Aiplex Software, an Indian software firm that was hired to launch a DDoS attack on peer to peer hub the Pirate Bay.
DDoS attacks were also launched against a law firm in Britain in retaliation to planned digital economy legislation that could potentially see alleged file sharers having their connections temporarily suspended. The attacks were found to have been a diversion so hackers could retrieve sensitive data, which were subsequently and publicly published online.