Anonymous Threatens Gitmo, U.S. Locks Down Wi-Fi

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base authorities turn off Wi-Fi and social media after Anonymous threatened to shut them down.

Mathew J. Schwartz, Contributor

May 21, 2013

4 Min Read

The Syrian Electronic Army: 9 Things We Know

The Syrian Electronic Army: 9 Things We Know

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The Syrian Electronic Army: 9 Things We Know

A threat by the Anonymous hacktivist collective has led to all Wi-Fi communications at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba being disabled.

Army Lt. Col. Samuel House told the Associated Press that disabling the Wi-Fi across the base was a preventive measure, designed to address a threatened disruption by Anonymous. Authorities at the base also blocked all access to Facebook, Twitter and other social media services.

"You shut the Wi-Fi down in GTMO, we will shutdown Guantanamo," read a subsequent post to the Crypt0nymous News Network's Facebook page.

The initial threat arrived earlier this month, with Anonymous announcing via Pastebin that "#OpGTMO" would run from May 17 to May 19. It also detailed a related "Twitter Storm package," urging people to flood Twitter with related messages using preset hashtags, as well as "phonebomb" their senators and representatives.

"We, the people and Anonymous, will not allow the most expensive prison on earth to be run without any respect for international laws," read an Anonymous press release, referring to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. "We stand in solidarity with the Guantanamo hunger strikers. We will shut down Guantanamo."

[ Is India in the security hotseat usually reserved for China? Read APT Attacks Trace To India, Researcher Says. ]

The Anonymous operation was meant to highlight the 100th day of a hunger strike being held at the base by prisoners protesting their length of incarceration, as well as conditions at the base. According to news reports, as of Monday, 103 of 166 prisoners at the base were continuing a hunger strike.

It's not clear whether the Army's disabling of all Wi-Fi on Guantanamo may have been the disruption that Anonymous was intending.

The threats from Anonymous aren't the first information security concerns to confront Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Last month, a Guantanamo war court judge ordered pretrial hearings to be delayed after defense attorneys reported that since February, key documents had gone missing from their systems and prosecutors' files -- which they didn't open -- had suddenly appeared on their systems, Reuters reported. Defense attorneys also reported signs that their internal base emails and Internet searches were being monitored by a third party. In response, the chief defense counsel for the tribunals, Col. Karen Mayberry, ordered all defense attorneys -- civil and military -- to immediately stop using government-issued computers.

In other Anonymous news, the collective earlier this month announced Operation Petrol (#OpPetrol), in conjunction with SaudiAnonymous and a hacker known as AnonGhost, who was a key figure in this month's #OpUSA attacks, which multiple critics derided as "FlopUSA" for being more bark than bite.

First announced on May 10 via Pastebin, #OpPetrol is designed to target oil-producing nations as well as petroleum companies, and scheduled for June 20.

The operation's stated raison d'etre is to avenge an alleged "petro-dollar" conspiracy involving Muslim countries selling oil in dollars, rather than local currency. "The new world order installed their own rules so that they can control us like robots," according to the post.

Countries designated as targets for attack include the United States, Canada, England, Israel, China, Italy, France, Russia and Germany. The campaign's organizers also designated as targets the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

Some related attacks have already been disclosed, including a purported leak of 16 Saudi government email access usernames and passwords in plaintext, which was uploaded on May 12 to Pastebin.

As that suggests, organizations that might be targeted by these attacks shouldn't wait until June 20 to perform a threat assessment and lock down vulnerable systems. "As we know from past events, actors may be compromising sites now only to release the results as part of the operation," according to a blog post from security researchers at HP. "Potential targets may have already seen activity that could later be associated with this announcement."

That said, many security experts expect #OpPetrol to be a non-starter. "Given the trends so far, we anticipate that this operation will mirror #OpUSA," said HP. "We do not anticipate #OpPetrol to be a large success."

About the Author(s)

Mathew J. Schwartz


Mathew Schwartz served as the InformationWeek information security reporter from 2010 until mid-2014.

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