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'Hacktivists' plan an ATTACK on govt websites

Last updated on: June 9, 2012 22:07 IST

'Why is the whole domain blocked?'

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Despite lackluster protests, Anonymous 'hacktivists' are determined to fight against internet curbs by targeting government websites.

"We don't know each other and we have no names. We are all anonymous. Tomorrow, I might see you at a bus station and still not know it is you," he says.

He is in a white T-shirt, dark blue denims and is wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. He is part of the first-ever protest by the international group Anonymous across a dozen cities in the country to protest against the government's censorship.  

A recent Madras high court order had put a blanket ban on a number of major online file sharing websites, infuriating students and professionals alike, who use these websites for file sharing and downloading.

In an open letter, the international group Anonymous had asked the government on June 6, "The Madras HC never issued any list of websites of be blocked, the department of telecom never issued a list of websites to be censored. Why is it that internet service providers are forced to block file sharing websites? Why is that instead of blocking a few links, the whole domain was blocked?"

Reportage: Priyanka/Vrushali Lad/Vicky Nanjappa in Delhi/Mumbai/Bangalore

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Image: 'Hacktivists' at Jantar Mantar, Delhi
Photographs: Priyanka/Rediff.com

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'We want our freedom. We know our rights'

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As the government failed to respond, the group called for protests across major cities in India.

Nearly 100 students gathered at Jantar Mantar in Delhi and shouted slogans against Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal."

Majority of protesters, wearing Guy Fawkes masks, shouted, "We want our freedom. We know our rights."

"We are all anonymous and met each other only at the venue. That's the way to keep it decentralised," said a woman present at the venue.

Some of them said that the low turnout might be due to the last-minute change in venue – the protest was earlier scheduled to be held at the India Gate.

"This is just a start. If the government does not listen to us and does not take us seriously, then there will be many more proactive measures," said another anonymous.

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Image: 'Hacktivists' at Jantar Mantar, Delhi
Photographs: Priyanka/Rediff.com

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'The government is living in the Stone Age'

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The Anonymous asserts that they will target the websites of those entities siding with the ban. And they intent to do so by means of DDoS -- a Distributed Denial of Service attack.

While hacking means getting into a computer or network and gaining access in a way which is defined as 'unauthorised by law', a DDoS attack means a large number of people accessing a network in a legitimate way, but all at the same time, which in turn would dry up the bandwidth and 'cause a huge traffic jam.'

"It is clear then that arresting somebody for taking part in a DDoS attack is exactly like arresting somebody for attending a peaceful demonstration in their hometown," the Anonymous claims.

In fact, a few members at Jantar Mantar talked about plans to undertake a DDoS attack on the websites of political parties if their voices are not heard.

"And it so easy to do that. The kind of security they have -- an anti-virus, firewalls -- is so basic. I don't think they understand anything about securing systems online," said one of them.

"They (the government) are living in the Stone Age, I must say," said one of them.

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Image: 'Hacktivists' at Jantar Mantar, Delhi
Photographs: Priyanka/Rediff.com

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'It is scary, it is creepy'

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A
simultaneous protest by Internet 'hacktivists' Anonymous in Mumbai's Azad Maidan turned out to be a damp squib. Staged at the famed maidan, where every protesting group worth its salt converges, it was unfortunate that not even 50 volunteers turned up to show their support.

Wearing red ribbons on their wrists and Guy Fawkes masks, protesters held posters and banners to participate in a largely peaceful protest against the blocking of sites by ISPs Reliance, MTNL and Airtel.

"We wanted to do it peacefully, because provoking the authorities is not our aim," said a participant.

In keeping with their tactic of DDoS attack, Reliance BigCinemas and the Trinamool Congress websites were hacked by the group, with the MTNL New Delhi and Mumbai websites targetted on Friday.

Speaking to rediff.com, a student from a downtown college said, "I am a blogger and it is scary that if people accessing my blog do not agree with its content, 50 or more of them can report it for abuse and my blog can be closed down. It is creepy to know that like in Pakistan, my Facebook and Twitter accounts may be trawled over and their content studied for offensive content in the future."

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Image: 'Hacktivists' at Azad Maidan, Mumbai
Photographs: Video: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

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'Use of Internet across the country will become impossible'

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She added that she decided to be a part of the protest with her brother, a class 9 student, because she feels that the majority of users should not suffer because "a few users indulge in activities such as cyber bullying or putting up pirated links. I agree that moderation is required, but not a blanket ban on sites."

Another protester, who is associated with the Free Software Movement, said, "Many people, such as senior citizens and middle-aged people, are not even aware of the existence of Anonymous. I am certain that if a ban on websites is allowed in the same fashion, the use of Internet across the country will become impossible in the future."

However, the assembled protestors lacked a clear agenda on how to take the movement forward. "If there are not enough numbers, the movement is bound to fail," said a music teacher who brought his guitar along and entertained the gathering with songs about freedom.

Added another protestor, "Not many people are aware of Anonymous and that simultaneous protests are taking place all over the country, but today's movement is at least a start."

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Image: 'Hacktivists' at Azad Maidan, Mumbai
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

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'Raise your voice, Save your voice'

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Nearly 12 members wearing Guy Fawkes masks turned up at MG Road in Bangalore to protest amendments made to the Information Technology Act, which puts a curb on the Internet.

The protestors, dressed in black, carried banners that stated 'Raise your voice, Save your voice'. The protest, against the Great Indian Firewall, lasted a little over an hour and did not garner the kind of support expected by its organisers.

Around 18 protestors gathered at the Mysore Bank circle in Bangalore to express their protest against Internet curbs.

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Image: Protests in Bangalore
Photographs: Vicky Nanjappa/Rediff.com

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