OpLastResort: Anonymous declares war on the US Department of Justice

Shortly after midnight on 25 January, Anonymous operatives demonstrated that they had control of the US Sentencing Commission website. Officials quickly removed the site’s DNS records, but Anonymous published the IP address and responded, “We retain full control over the site, but DNS records pulled. Like responding to burning house by removing street-signs...” After a few hours, the site was taken down. It is now back up.

OpLastResort is a response to what John Kiriakou described as “the Justice Department's policy of going after people in such a big way that the point is not necessarily to prosecute them, but it is to destroy them personally... it's vindictive and it's selective.” Kiriakou, a 14-year CIA veteran, was talking about the suicide of Aaron Swartz just a few days before he (Kiriakou) was sentenced to 30 months on Friday for leaking the name of a fellow CIA agent involved in the agency’s terrorist investigation program. “#OpLastResort,” announced Anonymous, “is a long-term Op devoted to honoring the memory of Aaron Swartz and continuing his important work.”

But this operation is very different to the typical Anonymous operation, and shows a deviation or evolution from the Anonymous of 2012. While in control of the US Sentencing Commission website, the collective posted a video and transcript detailing OpLastResort. Following Swartz’ death, “Anonymous immediately convened an emergency council to discuss our response to this tragedy. After much heavy-hearted discussion, the decision was upheld to engage the United States Department of Justice and its associated executive branches...”

This is an organization and not an anarchic collective – this is not the Anonymous of previous years. Even the language used is more controlled, restrained and literate. It is clear that this was not a spur of the moment hack. Indeed, Anonymous claims to have taken over many other, presumably DoJ, servers and to have downloaded what it needs. “Over the last two weeks we have wound down this operation, removed all traces of leakware from the compromised systems, and taken down the injection apparatus used to detect and exploit vulnerable machines.”

How much of this is factual remains to be seen. It would appear that the US Sentencing Commission was chosen for its symbolic value. What isn’t yet known is what other sites were infiltrated, and what data was stolen. However, the statement warns, “We have enough fissile material for multiple warheads. Today we are launching the first of these. Operation Last Resort has begun…”

This ‘warhead’ – data taken from as yet unnamed sites – has been encrypted with AES 256 and distributed to various sites on the internet. OpLastResort is demanding changes to the legal system. “There must be reform of outdated and poorly-envisioned legislation, written to be so broadly applied as to make a felony crime out of violation of terms of service [a clear reference to the Swartz case], creating in effect vast swathes of crimes, and allowing for selective punishment.” If these changes are not forthcoming, “At a regular interval commencing today, we will choose one media outlet and supply them with heavily redacted partial contents of the file.”

At the time of writing, Infosecurity is not aware of any such release. There is currently nothing other than the hack of the US Sentencing Commission that can be proven (the defaced home page was still visible in Google cache when this report was written). Infosecurity has, however, checked some of the URLs given for the location of the encrypted ‘warhead’, and there is indeed a very large apparently encrypted file in situ. If this is a hoax, it is a very extensive and detailed hoax. If it is what Anonymous claims, then either the US legal system must change, or some very ‘fissile’ material will be released to the public.

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