4chan to DDoS RIAA Next – Is This the Protest of the Future?

Over the last 36 hours or so, the 'Anonymous' masses and many unaffiliated sympathizers joined forces to attack the MPAA's website. Continuing with 'Operation Payback', today an attack will be launched on the RIAA. The ultimate in decentralized protests will go ahead and there's not a lawyer or police force in the world who can do anything about it. Is this the protest of the future?

Yesterday was a rare day when it comes to news connected to The Pirate Bay. Worn out and disillusioned by almost relentless news coverage of anti-piracy actions against the world’s most famous torrent site, Pirate Bay fans worldwide had a news story to celebrate – and not only celebrate but become a part of too, and get a little bit of payback in the process.

Led by the users of the 4chan message boards, a coordinated and massive DDoS attack Friday and Saturday took down the websites of both the MPAA and the anti-BitTorrent AiPlex Software.

As word spread of the attacks, sympathizers who had never even been on 4chan joined the attacks, simply by loading up their Low Orbit Ion Cannons (LOIC) and following some very simple instructions.

According to a flyer being distributed around the net, ‘Operation Payback‘ will now spread to another popular hate figure’s website. At 3pm Eastern today a new DDoS attack will be launched against the RIAA, but they won’t be the only targets. New information suggests that at the same time an attack will also be launched against the UK’s BPI.

TorrentFreak asked the RIAA whether they have taken precautions to deal with the attack, but the organization declined to comment on the issue.

Counter provided by the ‘attackers’

Protesting in large numbers against unpopular entities and activities is nothing new but has traditionally required participants to physically travel to various locations. In the Internet age, however, anyone can travel anywhere in the world to be ‘present’ at any location and make a nuisance of themselves with just the click of a mouse.

With some loose coordination through a community like 4chan, or indeed via like-minded individuals in any other Internet-based community, large amounts of attention can be brought to a cause. So can this type of action gain traction? Well, if nothing else, it certainly can’t be stopped, which raises some interesting points.

While the likes of the MPAA have done fairly well over the years in bringing sites down, the RIAA has chosen to target thousands of individuals with direct legal action instead. While they have largely stopped that now, a new wave of groups are now developing into an even bigger threat.

One of those groups has even enrolled support from a lawyer who has made a career out of stopping people’s right to protest. Trying to do that on the Internet should prove very interesting.

In the home of the RIAA, the United States Copyright Group (USCG) are targeting thousands of BitTorrent users, largely those who use The Pirate Bay, with extortion-like letters demanding many thousands of dollars to make potential lawsuits go away. As recently listed by Slyck.com, this practice is spreading at an alarming rate.

In the UK, home of the BPI who are also in line for attack today, lies a group who have easily done more damage to file-sharers (again, largely those from The Pirate Bay) than their music business counterparts. Just like USCG, lawyers ACS:Law have also sent out tens of thousands of letters demanding cash settlements.

But this is where it gets interesting.

Not only have the practices of ACS:Law warranted the company to be referred to law regulation authorities in the UK, but they have also been accused of harassment, so much so that a rival law firm have offered to represent letter recipients in a group action.

Fighting back, a couple of days ago ACS:Law published a piece on their website where lawyer Tim Lawson-Cruttenden supports the fight against file-sharers and “denounces” claims that the company harassed individuals it sent letters to. As it turns out, Lawson-Cruttenden is an interesting choice of supporter and a character who is reported to have “made a career” of opposing people’s right to protest.

“To his many enemies, Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden is the establishment solicitor who gags their protests,” began a piece in The Independent in 2007. “To his clients, he is legal barbed wire – an expert who can hold back a rabble.”

Apparently Lawson-Cruttenden’s firm has also helped arms manufacturers, GM crop pioneers and animal research establishments get rid of unwanted group attention. With swathes of injunctions obtained through the courts, he has successfully stifled protesters and backed them into a corner.

However, his impressive power has limitations – it’s only effective in the real-life, physical world. If, for example, the RIAA, MPAA or indeed ACS:Law had hired Lawson-Cruttenden to stop the 4chan protests against them, he would be completely and utterly impotent.

No lawyer, no injunction and no police force can stop these kind of attacks from happening and those carrying them out love the sense of power, the sense of payback they provide.

Little wonder that Panda Security have dubbed this weekend’s attacks as “the future of cyber protests“.

Update: RIAA.com went down 5 minutes before scheduled.

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