Loosely knit hacktivist group Anonymous started a new campaign on Friday called "Operation Last Resort." The group hacked into and took over of the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) website on Jan. 25; the site remained offline as of late morning Saturday.
Anonymous said that it hacked the website of USSC as an act of vengeance in the death of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide earlier this month. It is just the latest act by Anonymous in the aftermath of Swartz's death; it earlier defaced MIT's website as Swartz was in a legal battle which involved MIT.
The website of USSC was replaced with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself approximately two weeks ago "a line was crossed." The USSC is an independent agency of the judicial branch of the United States government.
Anonymous, among others, has blamed overzealous Justice Department prosecution of Swartz -- who allegedly downloaded millions of documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and JSTOR,for his suicide.
Before the site was taken down, the USSC home page had a long manifesto published by Anonmyous. The group said:
There has been a lot of fuss recently in the technological media regarding such operations as Red October, the widespread use of vulnerable browsers and the availability of zero-day exploits for these browsers and their plugins. None of this comes of course as any surprise to us, but it is perhaps good that those within the information security industry are making the extent of these threats more widely understood.
Still, there is nothing quite as educational as a well-conducted demonstration...
Through this websites and various others that will remain unnamed, we have been conducting our own infiltration. We did not restrict ourselves like the FBI to one high-profile compromise. We are far more ambitious, and far more capable. Over the last two weeks we have wound down this operation, removed all traces of leakware from the compromised systems, and taken down the injection apparatus used to detect and exploit vulnerable machines.
We have enough fissile material for multiple warheads. Today we are launching the first of these. Operation Last Resort has begun...
The contents are various and we won't ruin the speculation by revealing them. Suffice it to say, everyone has secrets, and some things are not meant to be public. At a regular interval commencing today, we will choose one media outlet and supply them with heavily redacted partial contents of the file. Any media outlets wishing to be eligible for this program must include within their reporting a means of secure communications.
We have not taken this action lightly, nor without consideration of the possible consequences. Should we be forced to reveal the trigger-key to this warhead, we understand that there will be collateral damage. We appreciate that many who work within the justice system believe in those principles that it has lost, corrupted, or abandoned, that they do not bear the full responsibility for the damages caused by their occupation.
It is our hope that this warhead need never be detonated.
In addition, at the bottom of the USSC home page was a series of nine files, mirrored three times, with each being named for a current U.S. Supreme Court Justice (e.g., Alito.Warhead1, and so forth).
As it often does, the group also posted a YouTube video describing "Operation Last Resort" (embedded).
It is unclear what "collateral damage" the hacktivist group is talking about, but it's possible that any inside information that the group claims to have could be embarrassing to others besides the justices themselves.