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Anonymous revives Operation Payback, wages war on "copywrong"


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The hacker collective Anonymous has once again cranked up Operation Payback, its attack on pro-copyright trade groups, this time taking down the website for Broadcast Music International (BMI). More attacks are on the way.

Launching a denial of service attack on the website for BMI, a songwriters' collection agency, would matter little on its own, but Operation Payback has some history behind it.

Started last year, the "op" produced an international series of attacks on pro-copyright trade groups and enforcement companies like RIAA (US), BPI (UK), MPAA (US), AFACT (Australia), BREIN (Netherlands), Aiplex (India), and Websheriff (UK). One of the smaller sites actually yielded the biggest bounty; the UK "P2P settlement letter factory" ACS: Law gave up several hundred megabytes of private e-mails after being taken offline by the attack, and the firm has since collapsed.

In fall 2010, along came WikiLeaks, which burst into the media firmament like a second sun when it released a huge cache of US diplomatic cables. Anonymous reacted with fury when companies like Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal made it more difficult to donate to WikiLeaks, and they redirected Operation Payback towards payment processors.

The attacks were not wholly successful, but they did stir police in multiple countries to action. The FBI seized servers in December, then executed 40 search warrants early this year, while the UK made 5 arrests and the Dutch picked up at least one man. In all of the excitement, Operation Payback's initial goals were forgotten and the operation fizzled.

As the WikiLeaks story died down, several Anons sought to revive Operation Payback in its original form. They have been talking about in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) rooms for weeks, even releasing graphics to stir the hearts of the faithful. "Copywrong" would be vanquished by the the "legion" of Anons, though it was never quite clear what this entailed.

YrOCN.png

Trailers aren't just for the movie business

The attack was plotted with the typical barely-controlled-chaos that Anonymous has turned into an art form. BMI was eventually chosen as the target, and the details were posted online.

LjtIl.png

The target graphic

The BMI attack press release explaining the attack was composed and vetted (as most such documents are) in a real-time collaborative Etherpad instance. This being Anonymous, even the press release was being trolled by other Anons, hence the "Stop trolling around you d---s" note at the bottom of the work in progress.

cuTzp.png

Seeing how the sausage gets made

Anonymous, which claims to have no leaders and no "members," had its usual issues with coordination. As one IRC user put it, "Yeah, somebody jumped the gun, so we opened fire [on BMI]. I still haven't slept yet."

Still, BMI went down under the the load. Where will Operation Payback go next? And when will it end? Who knows. As an early Anonymous press release on Operation Payback put it, Anons are "strongly motivated to do what we can to fight back against things which are morally questionable." Given the apparent prevalence of "copywrong," this could be a long fight indeed.

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