Anonymous hacks MIT

5501 anonymous
Two MIT websites were compromised with a message signed by Internet activist group Anonymous late Sunday. The message called for reform of “computer crime laws,” reform of “copyright and intellectual property laws,” greater recognition for “oppression and injustices,” and a commitment to a “free and unfettered internet.” This occurred following a denial-of-service attack lasting nearly three hours, allegedly by Anonymous.
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MIT’s network fell to a denial-of-service attack Sunday evening, allegedly by the Internet activist group called Anonymous, cutting campus users off from Internet access to most websites for nearly three hours. The attack came in the wake of accusations that MIT’s role in the pending litigation against Internet activist Aaron Swartz contributed to his Friday suicide.

“I can confirm that there was a denial-of-service attack last night,” said MIT spokeswoman Kimberly C. Allen. Sources who initially reported the outage to IS&T said that they received phone calls after the outage from an IS&T technician who said the outage was a DoS from Anonymous. While much speculation has suggested it was a Distributed Denial of Service attack, rather than a garden-variety Denial of Service attack, no one with information on the topic has given reason to believe the attack was a DDOS. Though it could be one.

Between roughly 7 p.m. and 9:50 p.m. Sunday evening, users of MIT’s network lost access to most websites, and MIT’s own web properties — like the homepage — were innaccessible on the Web at large. Two websites and were rewritten as a message from Anonymous about the Swartz case.

“Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government’s prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for — [sic] freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it — enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing — an ideal that we should all support,” said the message.

The message was careful to not blame MIT directly: “We do not consign blame or responsibility upon MIT for what has happened, but call for all those feel heavy-hearted in their proximity to this awful loss to acknowledge instead the responsibility they have - that we all have - to build and safeguard a future that would make Aaron proud...”

Large portions of the message were taken from a post ( from the Electronic Frontier Foundation about Swartz yesterday. The second paragraph, first “wish,” and sign-off message in the end were lifted directly from the post.

In their message, Anonymous outlined 4 wishes — they called for reform of “computer crime laws,” reform of “copyright and intellectual property laws,” greater recognition for “oppression and injustices,” and a commitment to a “free and unfettered internet.”

The message also included a link to the petition to remove U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who has been accused by Swartz supporters for using “overreaching charges.”

Anonymous is an ill-defined organization of hackers and internet activists. Historically, it has been Anonymous’ style to launch denial-of-service, or DoS, attacks to make a political point. Anonymous likely targeted MIT over the Institute’s role in the federal government’s case against Aaron Swartz, who allegedly used an MIT network connection to download millions of articles from the online repository JSTOR. The Tech reported early Saturday morning that Aaron Swartz had died by suicide in his Brooklyn apartment.

In an online statement, the Swartz family said yesterday that “decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to [Swartz’] death,” and that “MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.”

And in a message Sunday afternoon to the MIT community, President Rafael Reif said that he asked computer science professor Hal Abelson to “lead a thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took.”

The attack came several hours after Reif’s message was reposted by The Tech and other news organizations’ websites.

J. Nathan Matias contributed to the reporting of this article.

Anonymous over 11 years ago

The network issues were likely due to a router broadcasting a bad route to MIT rather than an attack. This was sent to one of the dorm lists:

Hi there! We know MITnet is down, and we're pretty sure its an issue with BGP. We've been having issues periodically over the past few weeks, and this is almost certainly not the result of an attack, just network misconfiguration.

-- Luke from MIT SIPB

Anonymous over 11 years ago

Keep in mind the followup:

To be clear, MIT SIPB maintains services at MIT, but does not maintain MIT's network. Further details as to the root cause are forthcoming.

It is not clear whether this was an attack or not.

Anonymous over 11 years ago

"MIT representatives were unable to be reached for comment and have not officially confirmed that the earlier outage and the Anonymous hacks were related."

So why is the Tech explicitly mentioning a denial of service attack?

Franck Dernoncourt over 11 years ago

"This was sent to one of the dorm lists:

Damn why don't they send this kinds of e-mail to anyone concerned? My dorm (Sidney Pacific) already has some issues Friday. No e-mail from the IT folks.

Anonymous over 11 years ago

The very first sentence of this article suggests MIT was DDOS'd yet never provides a source. Are the authors guessing or just not citing their sources?

Joanna Kao over 11 years ago

We've updated the article to make the sourcing more clear.

Anonymous over 11 years ago

Relying on one of the help desk employees via hearsay doesn't seem reliable.

The outage doesn't fit the typical symptoms of a DDOS and Anonymous usually announces targets before carrying one out in order to get help from others. Overall, this article seems to sensationalize two coincidental events without much fact checking.

Also, claiming that "Two MIT websites were compromised" is technically true, the author should be clearer and say that they were merely subdomains not actually administered by what most people would claim is "MIT". I think this is important because other news organizations picked up this report ( and simply say "MIT's website," which is absolutely not true. Is that this article's fault? No, but leaving out key facts is not great.

Patrick Marx over 11 years ago

"no one with information on the topic has given reason to believe the attack was a DDOS. Though it could be one."

Tech -- stop trying to speculate like a cable news network. If people who actually understand the topic think it wasn't that, why would think you know better?

Anonymous over 11 years ago

8 Patrick Marx: Contrary to what you infer, nothing in the article says that people who actually understand the topic think that it wasn't a DDOS. The article seems to suggest that the reporters simply don't have information as to whether it was a DDOS.

However, considering that MITnet was down for about 3 hours, it is in fact quite likely that the attack was in fact a DDOS. A non-distributed attack is pretty trivial to thwart using simple firewall rules and sinkholing.

-- Someone with servers on MITnet