Anonymous Says DDoS Attacks 'Symbolic Action'

The loosely organized hacking group Anonymous is making its case to justify the series of denial of service attacks it launched against companies that had discontinued service for WikiLeaks.

"Anonymous is not a group of hackers," but rather is operated with a "very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives," the group said in a statement.

"We are average Internet citizens ourselves and our motivation is a collective sense of being fed up with all the minor and major injustices we witness every day," Anonymous said.

Representatives of Anonymous said they had no interest in stealing personally identifying information or credit card information, and did not intend to attack "critical infrastructure of companies such as MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, or Amazon."

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Instead, the group said that the DDoS attacks, known as Operation: Payback, were intended to shed light on the WikiLeaks issue, and what its members perceive as "underhanded methods" by organizations that have undermined the whistleblower site. As such, members of Anonymous said that the DDoS attacks were a "symbolic action" rather than one intended for destruction.

Perhaps not all would agree with Anonymous' motives. Anonymous has been behind a slew of highly publicized DDoS attacks in recent weeks. Sean-Paul Correll, threat researcher at Panda Security who has followed the series of denial of service attacks launched by Anonymous' Operation Payback, said that he had observed "256 service interruptions and 94 hours of combined downtime" since the DDoS attacks started on December 4th. Panda Security also observed more than eight hours of counter-DDoS downtime targeting the Anonymous site, he said.

For the most part, the attacks have been carried out with collaborative tools, such as a Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC), which allows users to voluntarily attach their machines to a botnet in order to bombard a chosen site with traffic and shut it down. Essentially, the botnet then launches DDoS attacks by flooding a site with more traffic than it can handle, causing the targeted system to temporarily crash.

In the past, it has been tricky for attackers to organize enough users to simultaneously download the tool and connect their machines to a botnet. However, new technological developments now allow users to launch DDoS attack via their mobile devices, such as an iPad or an iPhone, according to Panda Security's Correll. Users only have to visit a Web page that converts the browser into a pocket LOIC, which subsequently delivers DDoS packets from the device.

Next: Anonymous Launches DDoS Attacks Against Long List Of Targets

The tools seem to be effective. The group targeted and with DDoS attacks earlier this week after both companies halted credit card payments to WikiLeaks, essentially cutting off funding to the whistle-blower site.

Prior to the MasterCard attacks, Anonymous launched a significant series of DDoS attacks on both the PayPal blog and PayPal site, shutting down both sites for hours. In addition, the group executed a massive attack on PostFinance, the bank that took down WikiLeaks' founder Assange's defense fund, with another heavy DDoS attack, leaving customers without the ability to conduct any online banking for at least 11 hours on Monday.

Correll said that Anonymous also targeted U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman's Web site with a DDoS attack, shutting it down for about 12 minutes, and sent spam faxes to his office.

In addition, Anonymous hackers also successfully shut down the Web sites of Sarah Palin, the attorney representing the two women allegedly assaulted by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as well as the site of Assange's Swedish prosecutor.

Anonymous said that there were calls to take down, which disconnected its servers from WikiLeaks earlier this month. While the group said attacking a major online retailer during the holidays would be ’in bad taste,’ reports indicated Anonymous launched several unsuccessful attempts to attack the platform.