Anonymous threatens to hack State of the Union address

February 12, 2013

A demonstrator wears an Anonymous mask at a protest in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The hacker collective Anonymous has vowed to take down all live streams of tonight’s State of the Union address and fill the event’s hashtag with protest tweets, according to a statement on one of the group’s Web sites.

At issue are the failed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, and a slate of other Internet laws.

“We reject the State of the Union. We reject the authority of the President to sign arbitrary orders and bring irresponsible and damaging controls to the Internet,” part of the statement reads.

Those “damaging controls” include the failed CISPA legislation that Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) will reintroduce Wednesday, and an executive order on cybersecurity. While CISPA was designed make it easier for the government and private companies to share data about cyber threats, the bill has faced heavy scrutiny from privacy and digital rights groups.

The “communique” also references Bradley Manning, warrantless wire-tapping, drone strikes and the National Defense Authorization Act, which Anonymous calls “an act of outright tyrannical legislation.”

But whether the group actually manages to make good on its threat remains to be seen. Even the word “group” is a misnomer — Anonymous has no leaders, no formal membership and an odd sense of humor, which gives it an uneven hack record.

Anonymous hackers successfully turned MIT’s Web site into a memorial for Aaron Swartz after the Internet activist's death, and took down a reported 600 Israeli Web sites to protest “despicable treatment” of Palestinians. At the same time, threats against Fox News, Facebook and Mexico’s Zeta cartel resulted in … absolutely nothing, Gawker points out.

While this attack seems to have some momentum behind it — bravado runs rampant on the #opSOTU hashtag — taking down the Web streams won’t be easy. The State of the Union will broadcast on a number of sites, including The Washington Post’s.

“That would require a pretty large DDOS, or a pretty impressive hack,” one user said in the operation’s official chat room.

“Anonymous is pretty impressive,” another user fired back.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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Paul Kane | February 12, 2013