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‘Operation Payback’ DDoS attacks: a summary of events so far
October 1, 2010

The saga between the RIAA, MPAA, Aiplex, and Anonymous started the same way any internet war does. No, not with a flame war, but with DDoS attacks. They’re a bit worse. A Distributed Denial of Service floods a server or service provider with a massive amount of requests, attempting to cause malfunctions.

But who started it, and who’s going to end it?

First, a little backstory: Indian software firm Aiplex was hired by the Motion Picture Association of America to help combat piracy. The company then proceeded to launch DDoS attacks against BitTorrent sites including The Pirate Bay, temporarily causing service interruptions much to the ire of file-sharers everywhere — including (naturally) a web group going by the name of Anonymous, which was supposedly organized by 4chan. The collective retaliated by launching its own batch of DDoS attacks (appropriately dubbed “Operation Payback”) with far-reaching effects. Aiplex was a major target, and despite its experience working for Bollywood studios it couldn’t sing or dance its way out of this one; its official site is still down as of the publishing of this piece.

The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) was also hit, presumably for its long history of going after file-sharing sites. The group also lost a case it was pursuing against an ISP that refused to level action against its morally gray customers. In addition, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) were also targeted for their attempts to impede file-sharing and protect copyrights – the former getting its comeuppance for hiring Aiplex in the first place. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) dodged the e-bullet and, despite an attempt, was unaffected.

Unfortunately the attack had some collateral damage: 8,000 other sites collapsed briefly. Intentional or not, it’s clear 4Chan prefers carpet bombing over a precision missile strike.

The highly-loathed legal group ACS:Law was probably hurt the most by 4chan’s DDoS attack. The firm accidentally published their entire internal email archive online while attempting to restore its website. Oops.

This volley of DDoS attacks and call to arms is pure internet spectacle (check out this open letter from 4chan leaders signed “Anonymous”), but it underscores an important issue: copyright infringement. Pirates obviously want to retain an unfettered and more importantly free access to media, while big companies want to protect their properties and investments at any cost. It’s the type of struggle where neither side is likely to back down, and neither is likely to “win.” It’s true that “Operation Payback” is just that: a reprisal for previous DDoS attacks. But do two wrongs make a right? Maybe if something good came of this battle, but that seems extremely unlikely.

As usual, we’ll continue to cover the on-going battles as they play out.


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