From reader Marcus Ranum, I got this link to an article that says that Britain’s GCHQ launched DDoS attacks against websites of political dissidents who were engaged in lawful activities. Thus the government is doing what it asserts are criminal activities if done by private entities.
A secret British spy unit created to mount cyber attacks on Britain’s enemies has waged war on the hacktivists of Anonymous and LulzSec, according to documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News.
The blunt instrument the spy unit used to target hackers, however, also interrupted the web communications of political dissidents who did not engage in any illegal hacking. It may also have shut down websites with no connection to Anonymous.
According to the documents, a division of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British counterpart of the NSA, shut down communications among Anonymous hacktivists by launching a “denial of service” (DDOS) attack – the same technique hackers use to take down bank, retail and government websites – making the British government the first Western government known to have conducted such an attack.
The documents, from a PowerPoint presentation prepared for a 2012 NSA conference called SIGDEV, show that the unit known as the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group, or JTRIG, boasted of using the DDOS attack – which it dubbed Rolling Thunder — and other techniques to scare away 80 percent of the users of Anonymous internet chat rooms.
This report was based on documents released by Edward Snowden and was reported by NBC News. That last fact is interesting because it shows that the network of outlets for the Snowden documents is increasing and engulfing more and more mainstream institutions. This will make it even harder for governments to claim that publishing this information is a criminal act because that would require them to prosecute establishment media, something they are loathe to do.
Meanwhile Geoff Dyer of the Financial Times traveled down to Rio to interview Glenn Greenwald and talk about new media venture he had joined.
Its focus will reflect Greenwald’s interest in civil liberties and privacy, as well as reporting on the NSA: he says he is not yet halfway through the tens of thousands of documents that Snowden gave him. “It will be like a news outlet. We will be publishing daily, with new stories. I will write every day there – my column, as well as reporting stories. And there will be guest op-ed writers. It will be its own standalone media organisation.”
The other First Look digital magazines will be separate “but it will be under the same editorial structure, so we will share lawyers, we will share subeditors and technical staff”. It could, he suggests, resemble Gawker in having several standalone websites that share corporate functions.
The politics of the new organisation will have a distinctly leftwing feel. As well as Greenwald and Poitras, the other marquee name hired by Omidyar is Jeremy Scahill, a ferocious critic of the Obama administration’s use of drones. A print journalist, Scahill made a documentary to accompany his 2013 book Dirty Wars, which has been nominated for an Oscar.
I think that Edward Snowden must be very pleased with the level of discussion and awareness his documents have created.