Leaked Documents Reveal Government Cyber Attacks on Hactivists

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on February 9, 2014

NBC News – MARK SCHONE, RICHARD ESPOSITO, MATTHEW COLE AND GLENN GREENWALD: ”Secret British spy unit created to mount cyber attacks on Britain’s enemies has waged war on the hacktivists of Anonymous and LulzSec, according to documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News. The blunt instrument the spy unit used to target hackers, however, also interrupted the web communications of political dissidents who did not engage in any illegal hacking. It may also have shut down websites with no connection to Anonymous. According to the documents, a division of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British counterpart of the NSA, shut down communications among Anonymous hacktivists by launching a “denial of service” (DDOS) attack – the same technique hackers use to take down bank, retail and government websites – making the British government the first Western government known to have conducted such an attack. The documents, from a PowerPoint presentation prepared for a 2012 NSA conference called SIGDEV, show that the unit known as the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group, or JTRIG, boasted of using the DDOS attack – which it dubbed Rolling Thunder — and other techniques to scare away 80 percent of the users of Anonymous internet chat rooms. The existence of JTRIG has never been previously disclosed publicly. The documents also show that JTRIG infiltrated chat rooms known as IRCs and identified individual hackers who had taken confidential information from websites. In one case JTRIG helped send a hacktivist to prison for stealing data from PayPal, and in another it helped identify hacktivists who attacked government websites. In connection with this report, NBC is publishing documents that Edward Snowden took from the NSA before fleeing the U.S. The documents are being published with minimal redactions.

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