On January 24, 2013, supporters of Aaron Swartz, the Reddit co-founder, philanthropist, and hacktivist who committed suicide earlier this month, flocked to the Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library offering free universal access to books, movies and music that occupies a former church in San Francisco, to pay their respects and continue his fight in keeping the internet free and open.
“Aaron Swartz was not a criminal. He was a citizen and a brave soldier in a war which continues today, a war in which corrupt and venal profiteers try to steal and hoard and starve our public domain for their own private gain,” said Carl Malamud, a technologist and outspoken advocate for open access to information.
Swartz dedicated his life to making scholarly material free and open to the public via the Internet. Because of his actions, Swartz was deemed an enemy and was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for hacking JSTOR’s system in order to obtain academic articles which he would have shared with others for free via file sharing sites.
His family accused MIT and Carmen M. Ortiz, District Attorney of Massachusetts, for pressuring Swartz, who ultimately took his own life.
But there was one more entity to be blamed for his death; the one responsible for Swartz’s harsh sentence – the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The USSC sets guidelines for sentencing in US Federal courts, which meant that they were the one who gave the Department of Justice fangs to sink in Swartz’s throat.
Operation: Last Resort
The government agency was not able to escape the wrath of Anonymous, the hacktivist collective fighting for people’s rights, from launching “Operation Last Resort.” Anonymous’ latest operation included defacing the USSC website, twice, and distributing sensitive files obtained from the site.
The operation started last Friday when Anonymous hacked the USSC’s website, but the Feds were able to regain control of the site. After a few hours, Anonymous successfully took over the site, rendering it unavailable the whole of Saturday. On Sunday, the USSC’s page turned into a playable game of Asteroids. Clear the text and you’ll see Anonymous’ iconic Guy Fawkes’ mask.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Anonymous distributed encrypted government files and threatened that de-encryption keys would be publicly released if the U.S. government did not comply with Anonymous’ ultimatum demands for legal reform.
Anonymous did not specify what files were obtained, but the files were renamed after Supreme Court Justices. This could indicate that the Justice for which the file was named after has something to do with the file/case, or it could contain damning information.
“Warhead – U S – D O J – L E A – 2013 . A E E 256 is primed and armed. It has been quietly distributed to numerous mirrors over the last few days and is available for download from this website now. We encourage all Anonymous to syndicate this file as widely as possible,” Anonymous said.
Anonymous also claimed to have placed “multiple warheads” on “compromised systems” in various unnamed websites, and encouraged members to download the encrypted files from ussc.gov that are “primed, armed and quietly distributed to numerous mirrors.”
Click here to view the full defacement text from Anonymous. And for a full analysis of Anonymous’ latest activity, see the video below. Contributing Editor John Casaretto offers his thoughts on Anonymous, Swartz’ influence on the principles behind open Internet initiatives, and more during this morning’s NewsDesk show with Kristin Feledy.