Way back in the fall of 2010, we wrote about how it was a really dumb idea for people associating themselves with Anonymous to run a series of DDoS attacks, under the name "Operation Payback," focused on the RIAA, MPAA, US Copyright Office and other websites. The attacks were protesting attempts to take down The Pirate Bay, as well as a variety of other complaints about general acts of copyright maximalism and copyright trolling. As we noted, such attacks do a lot more harm than good. Either way, the feds have finally gotten around to indicting thirteen individuals for somehow participating in that fall spree of DDoS attacks. While the indictment tries to make it out like this is a big conspiracy, it's unclear how connected some of the various attacks are, as it appears (as is frequently the case with Anonymous) that some individuals simply chose some sites to DDoS on their own and announced they were doing it as Anonymous. It's difficult to see a conspiracy when there's no real connection.
That said, there's a much bigger question here. While DDoS attacks can be a nuisance, are they really criminal? In the midst of these attacks, we questioned if they were really criminal acts or more like the equivalent of a sit-in, in which people were disrupting a business for the sake of public protest. In fact, some people arrested for DDoS attacks have been making this claim in court -- and there was even a White House petition asking it to recognize DDoSing as a valid form of protest.
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