Feeds

Anonymous hacks MIT websites after Aaron Swartz's death

Calls for law reform after suicide of indicted net activist

Top three mobile application threats

Hactivist collective Anonymous briefly took over some of MIT's websites earlier this morning to protest against the role computer crime laws may have played in the death of Aaron Swartz.

Reddit co-founder and internet activist Swartz was found hanged in his apartment in New York on Friday, having taken his own life at the age of 26. He was under indictment for computer and wire fraud, facing fines and over 30 years jail time, and some are now blaming strict computer laws and the US justice system for his suicide.

Anonymous hackers posted their message in red on a black background, claiming that Swartz's prosecution was unjust and his actions were political activism, not criminal activities.

"Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government's prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for," the message read.

"The situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of US computer crime laws, particularly their punishment regimes and the highly-questionable justice of pre-trial bargaining. Aaron's act was undoubtedly political activism, it had tragic consequences."

Swartz was arrested two years ago after allegedly using a laptop stashed at MIT to access JSTOR, an archive of academic journals, with a custom Python script and downloading 4.8 million articles. JSTOR charges for the documents, meaning the value of the articles amounted to millions of dollars.

JSTOR wasn't interested in pressing charges, but the government proceeded with the indictment. Swartz's lawyer, Elliot Peters, was attempting to negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors, but they remained insistent that he would have to spend time in prison.

Downloading the articles was part of Swartz's campaign for free information online; he had pulled a similar stunt in 2008, when he snatched a fifth of the US court documents stored online and made them freely available to anyone.

Although Swartz was suffering from depression, his family has attributed some of the blame for his death to his experiences of the criminal justice system. The Swartz family said in a statement that the US justice system is "rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach".

MIT has said that it will investigate how it handled the network breach and its role in Swartz's prosecution. The Anonymous hackers were careful to say that they didn't blame MIT, even apologising for hijacking the university's websites.

Anonymous called on the government to see the tragedy as a basis to reform computer crime and intellectual property laws and commit to a "free and unfettered internet". ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Canadian taxman says hundreds pierced by Heartbleed SSL skewer
900 social insurance numbers nicked, says revenue watchman
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
Burnt out on patches this month? Oracle's got 104 MORE fixes for you
Mass patch for issues across its software catalog
Reddit users discover iOS malware threat
'Unflod Baby Panda' looks to snatch Apple IDs
Oracle working on at least 13 Heartbleed fixes
Big Red's cloud is safe and Oracle Linux 6 has been patched, but Java has some issues
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.