March 29, 2013


In 2011, The Smoking Gun published excerpts of a sealed FBI affidavit concerning Anonymous' DDoS attack on the Koch Industries websites. In the affidavit, the FBI took aim at 12 people it alleged took part in the attack.

The Los Angeles Times now reports that one man, Eric J. Rosol, has been charged with conspiracy and an attack on a "protected" computer at Koch Industries, which caused damage.

Officials said Eric J. Rosol, 37, of Black Creek, Wis., participated in an Anonymous-organized shutdown of Koch websites and on Feb. 27 and 28 in 2011.

Rosol is the first and only defendant charged in the attack, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office told the Los Angeles Times.

The Koch site shutdown came during the height of pro-union protests in Wisconsin's state capital that winter, when the Koch brothers came under criticism for backing the state's union cutbacks. Under the hashtag #OpWisconsin, Anonymous members issued a statement accusing the Kochs of "political manipulation" and said, "We are actively seeking vulnerabilities."

Here is the full text of the indictment. Page 3 sums up Rosol's sins this way: "'' website crashed and was unavailable for legitimate traffic." Page 4 goes on to allege that Rosol "executed the LOIC program on his computer and transmitted from his computer information and various codes and commands, to a 'protected' computer at Koch Industries, the transmission of which damaged the Koch Industries computer by impairing its integrity and availability of data, programs, system and information."

I realize that it's all the rage right now for the government to try and lock up every member of Anonymous no matter who they are or what they actually did, but this indictment reeks of overreach. Reeks.

First of all, the attack on those servers was a "distributed denial of service attack". That means that more than one person participated, yet the indictment singles out one person, and according to the US Attorney's office, no others are targeted for similar indictment. Second, as the LA Times article points out, a DDoS attack is more like a sit-in than a break-in.

The first reports of an attack on Koch-related websites seemed to sound like Anonymous was targeting Americans for Prosperity. But in affidavit excerpts published by The Smoking Gun, it appears there were calls to target and, and it is these calls upon which the indictment is based.

Let's get real here for a minute. First, anyone who has ever maintained a website has gone through at least one distributed denial of service attack for something. They are a pain in the neck, they always seem to happen at inconvenient times, but they are also fairly easy to terminate, assuming a decent firewall is in place and server logs kept. In this case, the targeted sites were back up and running quite rapidly once network administrators blocked suspect IP addresses.

No data was taken; no firewalls breached. No one got access to anything that wasn't already public, and it was not the act of a single person, but a group of people.

With that perspective, consider that Mr. Rosol is facing years in federal prison, if convicted, for hitting a toilet paper marketing website a few too many times with page load requests. Why? Likely because he didn't take a moment to disguise his IP like other participants did, leaving his identity exposed while other participants did not.

Whatever the details, never forget that United States prosecutors are claiming that the site pictured at the top of this post -- a toilet paper pimping site -- is considered "protected", and therefore gives rise to the possibility of this person spending years in prison for...accessing it too many times.

Unlike the Aaron Swartz case, there was no alleged breach or theft of data.

Unlike the recently sentenced "Weev", there was no access to any data belonging to private individuals, though in that case, AT&T should have been the guilty party, not the guy who actually discovered their shameful breach of privacy.

Those things did not happen. What did happen was that one unfortunate participant in an online protest of Koch Industries' interference and hamhandedness in Wisconsin left a trail of breadcrumbs for the FBI to follow, and because his target was Koch Industries, he is now charged with federal crimes that could land him in prison for many, many years, if convicted.

It is difficult for me to imagine how a fair-minded jury could convict this man of anything but taking up too much butt-wipe bandwidth, but stranger things have happened.

More to come, I'm sure.

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