Anonymous claims attack on RCMP websites in response to police shooting
Published Sunday, July 19, 2015 3:42PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 19, 2015 6:38PM EDT
The hacktivist group Anonymous says it took down the RCMP’s national website Sunday as part of a campaign to avenge a fallen “comrade,” who died in a police-involved shooting in Dawson Creek, B.C. this week.
Members of the group have claimed responsibility for a series of cyberattacks against RCMP websites on Sunday, while also threatening to reveal the identity of the RCMP officer involved in the fatal shooting.
The RCMP’s national website, Dawson Creek affiliate site and the RCMP Heritage Centre site were all offline on Sunday. A Twitter account claiming to speak for Anonymous has taken responsibility for the outages, which started on Sunday afternoon.
A spokesperson from the Department of Public Safety says Sunday afternoon that they are “monitoring the situation closely.”
The apparent denial of service attacks come one day after Anonymous threatened to exact revenge for the death of a masked protester in Dawson Creek, B.C.
Anonymous says one of its members was shot dead by a police officer at a BC Hydro public hearing on Thursday, where the contentious Site C dam project was being discussed. The group sent out a tweet through one of its affiliated accounts after the shooting, saying it “would like to report a murder.”
Ohai @rcmpgrcpolice we would like to report a murder of one of our comrades by some of your officers. Shall we expect justice or cover up?— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) July 18, 2015
Police say they were called to the hearing due to a reported disturbance. Once inside, they encountered a masked man who refused to comply with directions and was fatally shot, police said.
The shooting is currently under review by B.C.’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office.
Shooting video online?
In a video posted to YouTube on Saturday, a person claiming to speak for Anonymous vows the group will not “stand idly by” when one of its members it killed. “We will most certainly avenge one of our own,” a distorted voice says in the video. “This RCMP officer must be named, fired and charged for the murder of our brother.”
The video includes intentionally blurred-out footage, which Anonymous says is a video recording of the shooting.
The group has vowed to continue its cyberattacks as part of a campaign called “AnonDown.”
Anonymous Op Anon Down is a permanent Op. We have no doubt that murderous police around the world will kill more of us. They'll pay a price.— Operation Anon Down (@OpAnonDown) July 19, 2015
IIO spokesperson Kellie Kilpatrick says her organization is aware of the Anonymous threats. “We take all precautions,” she said.
A smartphone video posted on social media Friday appears to show the aftermath of the shooting. The video shows two officers standing over a man slumped on the ground in a pool of blood. The man in the video appears to be wearing the Guy Fawkes mask that is often linked to Anonymous.
In the video, an officer appears to kick an object away from the man’s hand before he is placed in handcuffs.
The IIO says a knife was recovered from the scene. It has not confirmed the authenticity of the smartphone video.
Police have not said whether the masked man was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.
History of attacks
This is not the first time hackers have claimed responsibility for crashing a government website. The CSIS website went down three times in the span of 24 hours due to a cyberattack on June 30. A lone hacker claimed to be behind that attack.
In mid-June, Anonymous hackers claimed responsibility for denial of service attacks against several government websites, including the Parliament and Service Canada sites.
Cybersecurity expert Claudiu Popa says it’s quite easy for experienced hackers to crash a website through a denial of service attack.
What is a denial of service attack?
Essentially, the attackers drive a sudden surge of online traffic to the site, flooding its network and forcing it to crash.
“It’s a very basic activity,” Popa told CTV News Channel on Sunday. He added that a denial of service attack is “a good way to get attention, but ultimately, it’s not that useful.”
He said Anonymous will have a more devastating effect if it follows through on its threat to reveal the identity of the RCMP officer involved in the shooting.
The threat, which is referred to as “doxing” online, typically involves outing all of a target’s personal information, leaving them vulnerable to cyberattacks and shaming from the community at large.
“Doxing… is intended to punish someone,” Popa said. He added that the impact of a doxing attack can be severe. “Not only does it impact that one individual that’s being targeted, but also his or her family,” he said.
A murky threat
Defence Intelligence CEO Keith Murphy says Anonymous can be a truly dangerous threat, if enough members of their community get on board with this cause. He points out that some members of the community are only capable of low-level cyberattacks, while others have the ability to breach government security systems and databases.
“Anonymous has shown in the past that they have the capabilities and certainly the will to go through with these threats of doxing and releasing information,” Murphy told CTV News Channel on Sunday. “They should not be taken lightly in any way.”
He added that the website attacks are a “first salvo” that could lead to more problems.
Murphy suggests the severity of future attacks will depend on how much traction the story gains within the Anonymous community, which has a global reach of about 1.5 million people through its Twitter account.
Murphy urged everyone, including Anonymous, not to jump to conclusions on the shooting case until the IIO investigation is complete.
He said the IIO investigation must move quickly and decisively to make sure all the unknown elements of the case are brought to light.
With files from The Canadian Press