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Senior Staff Writer

IRC network calls for investigations over GCHQ’s attack on Anonymous

Feb 06, 20144 mins
Core Java

QuakeNet calls the GCHQ's actions grossly hypocritical...

QuakeNet, one of the oldest IRC networks on the Web, has condemned Britain’s GCHQ for their hypocrisy – after it was revealed the agency launched DDoS attacks against IRC servers used by supporters of Anonymous.

The story broke on Wednesday. NBC News reported that the GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) bragged about using Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, during an operation called Rolling Thunder. These attacks were part of a campaign targeting supporters of Anonymous, outlined during a 2012 NSA conference called SIGDEV.

During their presentation, JTRIG says they scared away 80 percent of the server’s users. In addition, NBC News also reported that JTRIG visited chat rooms on AnonOps (one of the Anonymous IRC servers) and interacted with users, sometimes spreading malware, in order to collect additional intelligence. Such intelligence led to at least one prison sentence, and additional identification of potential suspects.

As I wrote in my previous post, what the GCHQ did was reprehensible. They’ve broken their own nation’s laws, in order to target people gathered in a single location to express themselves and communicate their thoughts. Adding insult to injury, they gave themselves immunity, so no one will be facing any legal problems because of this.

Yet, as of today, anyone in the U.K. (or U.S. for that matter), who encourages, assists with, or conducts a DDoS attack, for any reason, will face up to 10 years in prison and heavy fines. It’s complete hypocrisy.

DDoS is disruptive. In addition to recovery and mitigation costs, even if those costs are just personal time lost due to the act, there’s collateral damage to consider. When a server is attacked, and it crashes, everything hosted on it goes down too.

In the case of the GCHQ’s attack, not only did the Anonymous IRC server go offline, but websites hosted on the same server went offline as well. In addition, the people paying the bills on the server had to pay bandwidth overage fees because of government sanctioned attack. Moreover, the ISPs that provide the connections to the IRC servers themselves were attacked, and faced problems of their own. By going after Anonymous, the GCHQ also attacked groups of innocent people, in what amounts to nothing more than aggravated censorship.

On Thursday, the staff for one of the oldest IRC networks issued a statement on the matter, calling for an investigation into the GCHQ’s actions.

“While QuakeNet does not condone or endorse and actively forbids any illegal activity on its servers we encourage discussion on all topics including political and social commentary. It is apparent now that engaging in such topics with an opinion contrary to that of the intelligence agencies is sufficient to make people a target for monitoring, coercion and denial of access to communications platforms…”

Continuing, the statement notes that many of the charges against those supporting Anonymous on IRC are the same as those that can be levied against the GCHQ. In fact, as mentioned previously, if the GCHQ hadn’t given itself immunity, the people who conducted the DDoS would be facing the same legal problems as anyone else.

“The actions of GCHQ are grossly hypocritical… Their attacks have had significant collateral damage to the IRC networks they have launched assaults on, the innocent companies hosting the IRC servers targeted and companies hosting the unwitting source of the DDoS attacks….

“We urge the British government to initiate an immediate and thorough public investigation into the actions of GCHQ and to assure users, companies and communities who rely on the internet that they are safe from being accidentally targeted by the broad, oppressive and legally grey hammer of agencies under their control.”