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Anonymous Targets U.K. Government Over Extradition Practices

Supports of Anonymous targeted the U.K. on Saturday, hitting the websites of the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. While the attack only lasted a short time, Anonymous has said to expect more of the same as they push forward. Currently, the next target is said to be the GCHQ on April 14.

It’s called Operation Trial at Home, and it’s been created by Anonymous as a way to show their outrage and raise awareness of the fact that the U.K. is sending its citizens to the U.S. to face trial for alleged offences committed on home soil. The law surrounding the issues that led to this weekend’s attacks has a rocky history when it comes to alleged crimes on the Internet.

Most of those who took part in Saturday’s attacks did so in support of Richard O'Dwyer, a 23-year-old student responsible for the creation of the TVShack website.

O’Dwyer might head to the U.S. to face charges of copyright violations for linking to third-party domains hosting television shows. Advertising on the site allegedly earned him upwards of $230,000 USD before ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) seized his domain two years ago. If found guilty he will face 5 years in prison, which creates a sore spot for some supporting Anonymous, as they feel his trial should be held in the U.K.

Another issue is the charges against O’Dwyer themselves, which amount to little more than making a serious amount of cash for running a search engine that allowed people to follow links from his domain in order to watch streaming media.

If anything, some of those supporting Saturday’s attacks noted, the owners of the pirated content hosted on the sites O’Dwyer linked to should be held accountable. The fact that he made a serious profit is also being used against him, as ICE maintains that it shows he made money from an illegal act.

Yet, if there were any crimes committed supporters of Saturday’s attack think that he should be tried at home instead of being sent overseas. The entire time that TVShack was operational, O’Dwyer managed it from within the U.K. Likewise, the servers and domains were not located in the U.S., so the supporters strongly question Uncle Sam’s claim to him.

The 2003 Extradition Act has been accused of being a lopsided relationship that favors the U.S. It is the same law that is being used in an attempt to bring Gary McKinnon (the famous UFO hacker) to the states as well. He’s been fighting it for more than ten years now.

In March, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said that there were major changes needed to the 2003 Extradition Act in order to restore public faith. The MPs, the BBC noted, said that it was “easier to extradite a British citizen to the USA than vice versa.”

At 7:00 p.m. local time, Anonymous targeted the Home Office’s website with a DDoS that crippled the domain for the rest of the evening, when it returned early Easter morning, the site was sluggish until early afternoon. The Ministry of Justice was also targeted during the same time.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said that the website was “the subject of an online protest” Saturday, but noted that there was no hacking involved.

“This is a public facing website and no sensitive information is held on it. There is no indication that the site was hacked and other Home Office systems were not affected,” the spokesperson added.

Reports that Downing Street’s website was attacked as well are unconfirmed, as the domain was available – albeit slow at times – all weekend long.

Next weekend Anonymous has slated Her Majesty’s Signals Intelligence Agency, the GCHQ, for takedown. According to flyers promoting and recruiting for the event, a DDoS targeting 195.171.165.115 will begin at 8:00 p.m. GMT.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.