The infamous 4Chan message board site—one of the best-known online hangouts for parts of “Anonymous” and the reputed source of rickrolling and that fake Steve Jobs heart attack rumor years ago—was largely taken offline by a distributed denial-of-service attack. So far, no one has credibly stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack, leading to speculation about whether Anonymous and 4Chan has earned itself a real enemy…or whether Anonymous is merely biting its own tail for a laugh.
A distributed denial of service attack essentially uses an array of computers around the Internet—often “zombie” machines controlled by malware but sometimes voluntarily participating—to send more requests to a Web server than it can handle. As a result, legitimate requests for information from the site are delayed or simply fail, effectively making the site inaccessible. Anonymous’ Operation: Payback used similar methods to take down Web sites for Mastercard and Visa (among others) in retaliation for the companies’ decision to deny services to WIkiLeaks.
“Site is down due to DDoS,” 4Chan founder “Moot” wrote in a status update. “We now join the ranks of Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, et al.—an exclusive club!”
So far, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for taking 4Chan offline.
If the 4Chan attack was motivated by the controversy surrounding WikiLeaks, it may indicate an escalation of “hacktivism:” public, politically-motivated attacks on the Internet. Operation: Payback likened its actions against Mastercard and Visa as the digital equivalent of a sit-in designed to draw public attention to the actions of a company or organization, and security firms (like McAfee) believe hacktivism will be an increasingly common form of political demonstration in 2011 and beyond.