The Department of Justice takedown Thursday of Megaupload and sister site Megavideo triggered a rapid retaliation from the hacktivist group known as Anonymous, which proceeded to knock the DOJ's website offline.
The tussle came in response to the Justice Department's 72-page indictment, unsealed Thursday in Virginia, which charged seven executives of Megaupload, which is based in Hong Kong, with copyright infringement and operating a criminal enterprise. According to the indictment, Megaupload generated $175 million in subscription and advertising revenue, while costing copyright holders $500 million in lost revenue.
Accompanying international raids saw 20 search warrants served in nine countries, including the United States, and $50 million in assets seized. Meanwhile, three of the accused, including 37-year old Kim Dotcom--a citizen of both Finland and Germany who also goes by the name Kim Tim Jim Vestor, and whose real name is Kim Schmitz--were arrested in Auckland, New Zealand. Four other people named in the indictment, however, remain at large.
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Here's where the Megaupload story stands now:
1. Raids inflame political debate. The timing of the FBI's raid against one of the Internet's most popular file-locker sites was sure to serve as a flashpoint for many people who just one day previously had joined in what was billed as the largest online protest in history. Notably, they were demonstrating against proposed anti-piracy legislation--the House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's PROTECT IP Act (PIPA)--which is backed by copyright enforcers but derided by others as being a threat to free speech, as well as the stability of the Internet.
2. Anonymous responds with massive DDoS attack. The DOJ raids led Anonymous to launch Thursday what it said was the largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in history, which took down the websites of the Department of Justice, FBI, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and Universal Music Group. Anonymous said 5,635 people had participated by using its low orbit ion cannon tool for flooding websites with fake packets, thus triggering a DDoS. It promised more "Operation MegaUpload" attacks would follow.
3. DOJ questions Anonymous assertions. A post to the AnonOps Twitter channel--a reliable source of Anonymous-related activities--late Thursday read: "One thing is certain: EXPECT US! #Megaupload." In response to the DOJ website outage which then occurred, however, an agency spokeswoman told CNN, "We are having website problems, but we're not sure what it's from." But just one hour after threatening the takedown, AnonOps announced: "justice.gov & universalmusic.com TANGO DOWN! You should have EXPECT US! #Megaupload."