Feds stumbling after Anonymous launches 'Operation Last Resort'

Feds stumbling after Anonymous launches 'Operation Last Resort'

Summary: The U.S. Department of Justice still has two Federal websites down since Friday when Anonymous launched 'Operation Last Resort' demanding legal reform.


The U.S. Department of Justice still has egg on its face after hacktivist group Anonymous launched 'Operation Last Resort' commandeering Federal websites, threatening to release government information, and demanding legal reform.

Late evening Friday, January 25, U.S. Sentencing Commission website was hacked and government files distributed by Anonymous in what the group calls "Operation Last Resort" in response to the recent, tragic suicide of hacktivist Aaron Swartz.

anonymous zero day

The feds wrestled all weekend with Anonymous to try and regain control of the website.

Anonymous had the last laugh Sunday afternoon as they whimsically transformed the .gov site into an interactive video game of "Asteroids."

Friday: ussc.gov launch of Operation Last Resort

Anonymous first hacked ussc.gov Friday afternoon, but only momentarily with control going back to the feds.

Later that night, Anonymous fully commandeered the website and made demands in a massive show of force.

The group stated it had infiltrated multiple federal websites over a period of time, and dropped enough technical details to make it clear that its tracks were covered and that it still had access to .gov websites:

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.

Anonymous placed links to encrypted files mirrored on multiple websites on the ussc.gov page.

Anonymous Tweeted that the group left a backdoor and made it editable in a way that encourages other hackers to come and shell the server.

This effectively made the federal site into a file distribution hub. The group stated it was launching its new campaign "Operation Last Resort" with an accompanying video.

Anonymous threatened to release decryption keys for the secret files - named after Supreme Court Justices - if the U.S. government did not enact legal reform to computer crime laws. The group stated it did not want to negotiate.

As the basis for its Operation Last Resort, Anonymous cited the recent suicide of hacktivist Aaron Swartz as a "line that has been crossed."

Anonymous' statement states the campaign is retaliation for Swartz's tragic suicide, which many - including Swartz family - believe was a result of overzealous prosecution by the Department of Justice and what the family deemed a "bullying" use of outdated computer crime laws.

The feds responded to the Friday night hack by wiping ussc.gov offline.

The FBI's Richard McFeely, executive assistant director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch, told Bloomberg:

We were aware as soon as it happened and are handling it as a criminal investigation. We are always concerned when someone illegally accesses another person's or government agency's network.

The website stayed offline for most of Saturday and returned by early evening.

Saturday ussc.gov offline; Sunday a game of Asteroids 

It seemed like order had been restored and the website appeared as it was before.

On Sunday around noon PST, Anonymous quietly - and somewhat whimsically - changed the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s website into a playable game of Asteroids.

When visitors went to ussc.gov, the website appeared as normal. However, on various social media outlets, accounts claiming allegiance with Anonymous published "Konami" code, a series of keystrokes with which any visitor to the site could use to turn their keyboard into video game controls.

Shooting the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s website text caused the original image of the site to slowly shrink, revealing a dark Anonymous face (the iconic "Guy Fawkes" mask).

News of the hack spread like a match to gasoline across internet forums and news websites, and by early Sunday afternoon the website began to stall and time out under the onslaught of traffic.

In response, Anonymous displayed its access - as suggested in the first defacement of ussc.gov - and posted social messages that the U.S. Sentencing Commission Asteroids game could be played on another government website Anonymous had commandeered (miep.uscourts.gov).

Monday offline, while House panel demands answers

Questions are now being raised on the dot-gov side of the 'operation.'

Monday, a House panel issued a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder with seven specific questions, and demanding answers regarding the Swartz prosecution.

With the letter to Holder, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requests a briefing with the Justice Department. CNET writes,

"Many questions have been raised about the appropriate level of punishment sought by prosecutors for Mr. Swartz's alleged offenses, and how the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, cited in 11 of 13 counts against Mr. Swartz, should apply under similar circumstances," [Reps. Issa and Cummings] say in the letter, which requests a briefing no later than February 4.

The letter is another voice from the Federal side of the discussion, joining a chorus led by Democratic congresswoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren who has authored a bill called "Aaron's Law" that aims to change the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (with which Swartz was being prosecuted).

It remains to be seen whether the actions of Anonymous have influenced federal action.

Wednesday: ussc.gov, miep.uscourts.gov still offline

Tuesday, both .gov websites remained offline - while fbi.gov was briefly knocked offline and claimed by Anonymous.

On Wednesday, six days after Anonymous took ussc.gov, the website remains offline.

At the same time, the encrypted files distributed in the Friday ussc.gov hack are still out there, with Anonymous holding the keys - to whatever they are (or are not).

The Operation Last Resort video, posted Friday on the U.S. Sentencing Commission website now has 1,100,000 views.

We'll update Zero Day with news about Operation Last Resort as it happens.

Topics: Security, Government US, Legal

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  • Great article

    You write some pretty smart articles. Great content.
    Charles Niswander
    • Agree

      Violet's articles are always great reads imo. Well done.
  • Good!

    Between this and the NRA, our government might just get what it deserves... A good wake up call!
    • No

      No, our elected official are very slow. They will never get the memo.
      Joseph Salomone
      • Slow does not begin to define

        the current administration and Gov't. We are on a fast track to join Europe in a Fiscal mess, this just outlines how moronic they are.
        • About time

          The rest of the world had to stop spending their way out of trouble. It's about time the US was affected in the same way by a crisis they largely caused.
          Little Old Man
          • After last Mondays speech it's

            so disappointing that the Administration seems to have failed history class. We have recent history lesson with Greece, Spain, France, yet what does Obooboo what to do....spend even more make even more Gov't. They can't stop the whack jobs now, how will they be able to in 4 years when there is 10X's more Gov't and 50% less people able to support them = Chaos.
          • poor justice system

            I think its stupid that a child molester gets 2yrs while they want to give 35yrs to a hacker.
          • That is because...

            ...A child molester is not a threat to the State. A hacker who is not brainwashed by the State and their "media" outlets is, however.
            Cody B.
          • Dude seriously....

            You know why Aaron Swartz was arrested? Do you even know what you're talking about? Aaron Swartz was arrested for attempting to steal scholarly articles and make them public to millions.... So you're saying that's worse than predatorily pursuing children? Are you high? Just because someone has the capability to do something to the government doesn't mean that someone should get 35 years in prison.

            I can go down the street and steal from the local supermarket but that doesn't mean I'm going to do it to the government.

            What if everyone is becoming blind to everything that is happening? What if our government IS becoming a little swayed in the wrong direction? I'm sure that we don't know about 99.99 percent of everything that is going on. Maybe they wouldn't be so pissed at the government if the government didn't do shit like this http://youtu.be/rIccco4PRRk just maybe...
            Nickolas Kent
          • Please keep OWS out of it

            You lose all legitimacy by citing them in your arguments against the government. They were thugs who deserved the government action taken against them. They initiated every conflict they got into against the government. They literally raped and pillaged everywhere they went. You disrespect Aaron Schwartz by using OWS to defend him.
          • Its what happens when criminals run the system

            Not even one legit employee in the entire DOJ all of them are drooling losers or traitors.
            Reality Bites
          • Wrong lesson

            The lesson from Greece is you don't make huge cuts in a recession. The UK did that too and they're likely to have a triple dip recession. This doesn't mean spending like drunken sailors on shore leave is wise, but that really started with bush. Its just that roughly half was called supplemental spending, which wasn't part of the annual deficit. Now it is.
          • Not to sidetrack but....

            Greece's economy was intentionally crashed, for allowing a commercial cold-fusion plant to come online, bet you never heard of that, did ya? bet you thought cold-fusion was bogus huh? The people that orchestrate these things are concerned with maintaining complete control, and they do this through controlling media, and energy, through this they can control economies and governments without doing much else. Very little man power required, just up the cost of energy and then point the finger at someone/thing as the cause, and Goverments and Economies, and whole societies will react as expected.

            How can one country's economy be considered crashed, while several others, part of the same encompassing currency/world level bank, not be crashed. Either they are a Union or not.

            Several US States have major budget problems, but would we ever say their economy has collapsed? Would we ever let such a thing occur?

            If it were not for crackers (the proper term, please see the jargon file) we would probably not know nearly as much as we do.

            FYI: Hacker is a much more respectable term, which has little to do with breaking into systems. When you are trying to solve a problem, in the computer sense, you hack away at the problem. A novel, or elegant, or even simple solution to a complex or intricate problem, is considered a great hack.

            Unfortunately , crackers (which in other contexts is a very derogatory term), would rather align themselves with the more respectable term, and so claim to be hackers. No doubt the skillset is the same, but what you do with those skills, determines your respectability.

            Please media, call them crackers even when they claim to be hackers, if that is what they are doing. Your misuse of the term, causes true hackers, (people who solve problems, often generously), a great deal of grief.

            To all the crackers out there, I know when you break challenging security measures, to you it is a great hack, but it is for the purpose of cracking (like the term safe cracking), it does not deserve the more respectable term. At least not until it is has become the solution to the problem. If you are successful in your attempts, to get the DOJ to change the laws and admit their guilt in this, only then may you claim this as a great hack, only when the root problem is solved, for the betterment of all. Until then it is just a crack.
          • Claims of cold fusion reactors aside ...

            The Eurozone is a currency spanning several sovereign nations, but the national debts are not unified.

            This is how one Euro economy can crash in isolation.
            Beast Of Bodmin
          • The recent history lesson

            is that austerity [b]doesn't work[/b]!

            The US should have done (and still can do) what the Icelanders did: forgive the debt caused by the pooping of the bubble and put those that caused the problem in jail. They had a hard year, but have been improving ever since.

            In short, what may be best for the economy is to forgive the housing debt above current fair market value and put the bankers in jail for fraud.
          • The recent history lesson

            is that austerity [b]doesn't work[/b]!

            The US should have done (and still can do) what the Icelanders did: forgive the debt caused by the pooping of the bubble and put those that caused the problem in jail. They had a hard year, but have been improving ever since.

            In short, what may be best for the economy is to forgive the housing debt above current fair market value and put the bankers in jail for fraud.
          • The recent history lesson

            is that austerity [b]doesn't work[/b]!
      • not getting the memo...

        Because under the current DOJ definition of an electronic correspondence is a letter written on an IBM Selectric typewriter... no joke.
    • YES YES YEAH.....

      and all during the Commie Obamies watch. I love it!!!