by Josh Gross
Ladies and gentlemen: there is an Internet war on. And it's raging with all the maturity of a fourth grade "he said-she said" match. But unlike those conflicts, this one is has the potential for serious and tangible consequences on national and global affairs.
Anonymous—a loose coalition of hackers—rose to international attention late last year with its defense of the website wikileaks.org by launching the Internet equivalent of guerilla war against anyone who attacked it or its founder, Julian Assange. Everyone from politicians to web-security companies to Visa were assailed with denial-of-service attacks and defacement of websites.
Emboldened by press coverage and visibility, Anonymous kept its hacktivism rolling. While much of it was antagonistic vandalism, Anonymous also claims involvement in Internet activism helping spur revolutions in the Middle East.
One of the most prominent attacks occurred after Aaron Barr, a top executive at the Internet security firm HBGary Federal, offered proposals to Bank of America on how to discredit and destroy Wikileaks before it could publish BOA internal documents believed to expose fraud and corruption in the lead up to the 2008 financial crisis. Anonymous hacked HBGary and published 50,000 internal e-mails, crippled its website and used Barr's own Twitter account to publish his Social Security number and a series of embarrassing fraudulent statements.
Last week, someone using the title of Anonymous—some Anonymous members have disputed if the author is truly a member inasmuch as anyone is a member on chat boards—issued an ultimatum to the Westboro Baptist Church, one of the nation's foremost hate groups, which gained national attention for its practice of picketing the funerals of soldiers and the victims of hate crimes with slogans like "God hates fags" and "Fags eat poop." (WBC also made a curious foray into karaoke, penning a musical parody of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," which it posted online.) The ultimatum said the church needed to cease its activities or risk an attack from which "the damage incurred will be irreversible, and neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover."
What Anonymous hoped to expose is mysterious, as official statements already made by the church are fairly embarrassing verbatim.
Once again proving its maturity, the church, which thrives on bad publicity, said "Bring it," and called Anonymous "girls" in a published statement.
Anonymous responded that it wasn't really interested, that it was "just really busy." Too busy to bother with the likes of Westboro.
Apparently not, because today the Westboro Baptist Church's website, godhatesfags.com, went down and now this is in its place. The hack was performed live during a radio call interview. It happens around eight minutes into the video below.