Online activism site Avaaz hit by ‘massive’ cyberattack: ‘Government or large corporation’ likely involved

Cyberattack Avaaz.org

Online activism platform Avaaz.org claims to have suffered a “massive” cyberattack late Tuesday evening, and all day Wednesday. The organization says that it likely came “from a government or large corporation. Moreover, Avaaz says the attack was anything but a surprise.

“We were expecting this,” Avaaz writes in a statement on its website. “Our people-powered campaigning has been fearless, and we’ve taken on the world’s worst actors head-on, in ways that genuinely hurt them — from the Syrian and Chinese regimes to Rupert Murdoch, Big Oil, and organized crime. The Syrian dictatorship called our campaigner ‘the most dangerous man in the world’, and a UK inquiry recently revealed emails between Murdoch’s news corporation and top levels of government saying the Avaaz campaign against Murdoch was their biggest concern. Sometimes I lie awake at night wondering when these people are going to come after us.”

Interestingly, Avaaz is also responsible for a number of popular online petitions against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a piece of cybersecurity legislation, popular among businesses, that supporters say is necessary to help prevent cyberattacks. Its first anti-CISPA petition, entitled “Save the Internet from the US,” has received nearly 800,000 signatures. Another, directed at Facebook, Microsoft, and IBM — all of which explicitly support CISPA — has racked up about 650,000 signatures.

At this time, there is no reason to believe Avaaz’s anti-CISPA stance has anything to do with the cyberattack.

The organization also has an ongoing campaign to push chemical manufacturer Bayer to stop producing pesticides that are linked to a honey bee holocaust, and a petition to urge European governments to pass new legislation that would help protect the oceans.

As of late yesterday, the alleged attack had already been going on for more than 36 hours straight, the site claims. Avaaz says that, thanks to its “top-notch security,” they were able to keep the site up and running throughout the attack. It is not yet clear whether the attack is still ongoing, or whether any sensitive data was compromised during the attack. Nor do we have any further information about who may be behind the attack.

According to Avaaz Communications Director Sam Barratt, the Avaaz team is “still looking” into the matter, but hope to have more details on the attack by Friday. “I can confirm that so far the attack has minimal impact to the site,” he added.

Avaaz, a non-profit organization, is asking supporters for donations to help keep their site alive, and to protect against future attacks.

Updated for clarity