Hactivist collective Anonymous took credit for taking down the U.S. Justice Department web site, saying the Thursday attack was in retaliation for the arrest of the leaders of Megaupload.com, an illegal file sharing site that distributed hundreds of millions of dollars in copyrighted music, movies and software.
The department's site was inaccessible intermittently; starting just hours after law enforcement made the arrests and took Megaupload.com offline. "We are having Web site problems, but we're not sure what it's from," a DOJ spokeswoman told CNNMoney.
Besides the DOJ site, Anonymous also claimed responsibility on Twitter, under the handle "anonops," for taking down the sites of Universal Music and the Recording Industry Association of America. Both were offline Thursday afternoon. "We are the 99%. We are Anonymous. You should have expected us," the collective said on Twitter. The 99 percent refers to the Occupy political movement that seeks to shift more of the tax burden on the nation's wealthiest 1 percent.
The Justice Department said Thursday that seven people were charged with operating a massive global online piracy operation that generated more than $175 million over five years and caused a half-billion dollars in damages to copyright holders of movies, books, TV programs and business and entertainment software.
An indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury Jan. 5, alleged that Kim Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor, 37, founded Megaupload Ltd., which ran the file-sharing site. Dotcom was also the director and sole shareholder of Vestor Ltd., which was used to hold the defendant's ownership interests in Mega-affiliated sites. Dotcom is a resident of Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Dotcom and three other defendants were arrested Thursday in Auckland, New Zealand, while the remaining suspects were at large. Law enforcement officials also seized $50 million in assets and took down Megaupload servers in Ashburn, Va., Washington, D.C., the Netherlands and Canada. The seven defendants each face a maximum of 50 years in prison for conspiracy to commit racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering.