Tag Archives: Anonymous

British hacker accused of breaking into US government computers to be extradited

A British student accused of hacking into United States government computer systems will be extradited from Britain, to face trial in America, a judge in London has decided.

Lauri Love, 31, from Stradishall, Suffolk, is accused of hacking dozens of websites, including those belonging to the FBI, the US missile defence agency, the US central bank and NASA. If convicted, Love, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, will face a maximum penalty of 99 years in prison.

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The New Snowden Revelation Is Dangerous for Anonymous — And for All of Us

Photo: Jim Merithew/WIRED

The latest Snowden-related revelation is that Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) proactively targeted the communications infrastructure used by the online activist collective known as Anonymous.

Specifically, they implemented distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on the internet relay chat (IRC) rooms used by Anonymous. They also implanted malware to out the personal identity details of specific participants. And while we only know for sure that the U.K.’s GCHQ and secret spy unit known as the “Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group” (JTRIG) launched these attacks in an operation called “Rolling Thunder,” the U.S.’ NSA was likely aware of what they were doing because the British intelligence agents presented their program interventions at the NSA conference SIGDEV in 2012. (Not to mention the two agencies sharing close ties in general.)

Whether you agree with the activities of Anonymous or not — which have included everything from supporting the Arab Spring protests to DDoSing copyright organizations to doxing child pornography site users — the salient point is that democratic governments now seem to be using their very tactics against them.

The key difference, however, is that while those involved in Anonymous can and have faced their day in court for those tactics, the British government has not. When Anonymous engages in lawbreaking, they are always taking a huge risk in doing so. But with unlimited resources and no oversight, organizations like the GCHQ (and theoretically the NSA) can do as they please. And it’s this power differential that makes all the difference.

There are many shades of gray around using denial-of-service attacks as a protest tactic. Unlike a hack, which involves accessing or damaging data, a DDoS attack renders a web page inaccessible due to an excessive flood of traffic. As an anthropologist who has studied hacker culture, hacktivism, and Anonymous in particular, I struggled to find some black-and-white moral certitude for such activities. But as one member of Anonymous told me: “Trying to find a sure fire ethical defense for Anonymous DDoSing is going to twist you into moral pretzels.”

Judging the “moral pretzel” of DDoS attacks requires understanding the nuances of how they are carried out, and DDoS attacks tend to be problematic no matter what the motivation. Still, they’ve been a worthwhile exercise in experimenting with a new form of protest in an increasingly digital era. In the case of Anonymous, this form of protest came about because of the banking blockade against WikiLeaks. While the protest was rooted in deceit (they used botnets and many of their participants did not know that), it was certainly not destructive (especially since it was leveled against a large organization that could withstand it). The whole point was to get media attention, which they did.

But here’s the thing: You don’t even need to believe in or support DDoS as a protest tactic to find the latest Snowden revelations troubling. There are clearly defined laws and processes that a democratic government is supposed to follow. Yet here, the British government is apparently throwing out due process and essentially proceeding straight to the punishment — using a method that is considered illegal and punishable by years in prison. Even if DDoS attacks would do more damage upstream (than to IRC), it’s a surprising revelation.

This is the kind of overreaction that usually occurs when a government is trying to squash dissent.

The real concern here is a shotgun approach to justice that sprays its punishment over thousands of people who are engaged in their democratic right to protest simply because a small handful of people committed digital vandalism. This is the kind of overreaction that usually occurs when a government is trying to squash dissent; it’s not unlike what happens in other, more oppressive countries.

Since 2008, activists around the world have rallied around the name ‘Anonymous’ to take collective action and voice political discontent. The last two years in particular have been a watershed moment in the history of hacktivism: Never before have so many geeks and hackers wielded their keyboards for the sake of political expression, dissent, and direct action.

Even though some Anonymous participants did engage in actions that were illegal, the ensemble itself poses no threat to national security. The GCHQ has no business infecting activists’ systems with malware and thwarting their communications. And if we’re going to prosecute activists and put them in jail for large amounts of time for making a website unavailable for 10 minutes, then that same limitation should apply to anyone who breaks the law — be they a hacker, our next door neighbor, or the GCHQ.

As it is, the small subset of Anonymous activists who engaged in illegal civil disobedience face serious consequences. These activists — on both sides of the Atlantic — are currently paying a steep price for breaking the law, because the current form of the laws under which they’re charged (the Computer Misuse Act in the U.K., and the CFAA in the U.S.) tend to mete out more excessive and often disproportionate punishments compared to analogous offline ones. For instance, physical tactics such as trespass or vandalism of property rarely result in serious criminal consequences for participants and tend to be minor civil infractions instead of federal crimes. Yet that same nuance — which fundamentally recognizes the intention and the consequences of such protest actions — is rarely extended to online activities. Criminal punishments for such acts can stretch out to years, disrupt lives, lead to felony charges on employment records, and result in excessively high fines.

If we’re going to prosecute activists for making a website unavailable for one minute, then that same limitation should apply toanyone who breaks the law.

To put this in perspective: In Wisconsin alone a man was fined for running an automated DDoS tool against the Koch Industries website for 60 seconds. (He was protesting the billionaire Koch brothers’ role in supporting the Wisconsin governor’s effort to reduce the power of unions and public employees’ right to engage in collective bargaining.) The actual financial losses were less than $5,000, but he was charged a fine of $183,000 — even though a far worse physical crime in the same state was only fined $6400.

In the U.K., Chris Weatherhead — who didn’t directly contribute to a DDoS campaign but ran the communication hub where the protests were coordinated — received a whopping 18-month sentence. This is even more time than was given to hackers who broke into computer systems, stole data, and dumped it on the internet.

Based on these and other sentences already handed out, it’s clear that judges consider Anonymous’ actions to be serious and punishable. Scores of Anonymous hacktivists have already been arrested or jailed.

Meanwhile, agencies like the GCHQ face no such risks, deterrents, consequences, oversight, or accountability. This scenario is all the more alarming given that some of Anonymous’ actions may be illegal and might warrant attention from some law enforcement agencies — but do not even come close to constituting a terrorist threat. And that means we’re inching into the same territory as the dictatorial regimes criticized by democratic governments for not respecting internet freedoms.

The new era of organized cybercrime

During the murder trial of the contentious Jamaican dancehall artist known as Vybz Kartel—still ongoing—a critical piece of evidence vanished. Kartel and his associates had been charged with conspiring to kill Clive “Lizard” Williams, and prosecutors had obtained a compact disc of allegedly damning cellphone records, including text messages. Then it disappeared.

Losing that data wasn’t the only technological misstep for the legal team. Inspector Warren Williams, head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s cybercrime unit, gave a PowerPoint presentation intended to establish, via GPS location, where Kartel and any accomplices were in Kingston when exchanging these messages. Instead, he misidentified the relevant buildings on his own map.

There was also corruption in the air: It came out that a co-defendant’s cellphone was used while in police custody. For all the of the simplicity of the crime and punishment, there was a lot of sophisticated gadgetry involved—the kind that both enhances and vastly complicates our lives. Criminals and cops alike have been forced, as ever, to adapt to a virtual landscape, develop cutting-edge techniques, and reassess their potential allies.

All this ought to make us wonder if the term “organized crime” needs an updated definition in the Internet age. More and more, the Web is the very vector of criminal cooperation, as well as the means by which illegal enterprise is brought down.

As 2013 drew to a close, the British Bankers Association revealed a stunning statistic: “Traditional” bank robberies—those that tend to involve duffel bags and the threat of deadly force—had dropped 90 percent in the last 10 years. The trend was the same in the U.S., where the FBI recorded 3,870 robberies in 2012, the lowest figure going back several decades.

Increasingly sophisticated deterrents and alarm systems had certainly played a role in the diminishing of violent theft, but the trend also coincided with the rise of cybercrime targeting financial services. Indeed, hackers had begun to drain bigger bank accounts while taking far fewer risks.

“Instead of guns and masks, they [use] laptops and malware,” said Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, on the topic of a historic $45 million ATM scam.

“We certainly have much more diverse organized crime in the U.S. than in the past, much more transnational, much more linked to computers,” noted Louise Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University.

But given that the two styles of robbery call for vastly different skill sets, one has to wonder: Are the same people getting rich? Or has the Internet completely altered the landscape for illegal enterprise? As with most tectonic shifts in the history of crime, it’s been a messy transition.

Prohibition is widely considered the catalyst that allowed the American mafia to evolve from a petty, murderous gang into a semi-corporate entity with an established hierarchy of leadership and division of labor. The mafia’s business model took root in the public consciousness and flowered throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Even as bloody internal warfare rocked such institutions in the early 1980s and led to a major federal crackdown, criminal conglomerates were becoming transnational, coordinating activities on a global scale. The Internet, then, would appear to offer opportunities for further unchecked expansion.

In the virtual world of cyberspace, though, it appears that the DNA of organized crime will have to mutate once again.

Reading about the cases of old-style bosses like Boston’s James “Whitey” Bulger, the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s fictional mobster in The Departed, you might guess that the “traditional” forms of organized crime (dealing in protection money and other forms of extortion that rely upon face-to-face interaction and geographic boundaries) have all but crumbled before a more fluid underground economy. In a certain sense, you’d be right:

These dons tend to sound nostalgic for the days of massive analog scams. The biggest mob bust of the past few years ensnared 127 players on charges of homicide, arson, and loan-sharking. Meanwhile, your conventional pusher couldn’t hope to compete with the Deep Web black market Silk Road—but wasn’t that bazaar, with its anonymizing defenses and reported hit-job conspiracies, itself an example of “organized crime”?

It hardly helps that the term is so difficult to define. Would we consider the gangs pulled together by John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde “organized”? Perhaps that kind of loose, joyride-inflected camaraderie in a criminal enterprise is a better analogy for the scene we encounter on the Internet today, with its shifting alliances and adrenaline-junkie black hats. We still see many of the hallmarks of organized crime in online syndicates:

The elimination of rivals, traitors, and spies is a concern subordinate to the creation of wealth at the expense of various victims. Mercenaries and middlemen abound, selling their services to the highest bidder. Hackers are sometimes “flipped” and made to give testimony against their colleagues.

The vanishing of “territory,” however, means that the recognized families of the mafia no longer have a home base to defend or define themselves by. Muscle and physical threats are less essential, and schemes take fewer conspirators to arrange.

As globalization called for cooperation between syndicates and thus the emergence of a broader, flatter management structure, so too does the digital frontier demand a fresh approach. At the outset, that means acquiring the talent necessary to make cybercrime lucrative—however possible. Infosec Institute relayed reports that Mexican drug cartels have even forcibly recruited and kidnapped computer programmers.

“But,” Louise Shelley told the Daily Dot via email, “for over two decades, narcotics traffickers from Colombia have used the service of experienced computer specialists to encrypt their communications.” Similarly, she wrote, the cartel-affiliated, Los Angeles-based organization M-13, known to be involved in human trafficking, is using the Internet to get jobs done efficiently and quietly. You can kill and terrorize all you want, but money is becoming more virtual daily.

“Individuals who are not tech-savvy are losing out on organized crime in the U.S.,” she declared.

Ethnic solidarity remains a theme as organized crime seeps into cyberspace. A bank fraud and identity theft ring in California, for example, was the work of several men associated with the Armenian Power crime syndicate, two of whom were incarcerated and operating via cellphones smuggled into their prison (once again, turf is beside the point). More and more common, however, are confederacies assembled in far-flung regions.

Just skim some of the FBI’s big cybercrime cases: One press release touts the arrest of “10 individuals from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, New Zealand, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States.” The porous, frictionless Web results in bedfellows you may not have predicted half a century ago.

Of all the existing mafias, Russia’s have surely gotten the early lead in cybercrime, operating in poorly policed .su domains. “There is a segmentation of the market,” Shelley explained. “Some of the most lucrative transnational crimes, such as selling counterfeit pharmaceuticals online, are done by Russian organized crime groups.”

Last month, an Arizona man named David Camez was convicted for his role in the Carder.su identity theft syndicate, but he was just a small-time buyer of counterfeit IDs. The actual empire was run by Russian Roman Zolotarev—according to the testimony of former Secret Service agent Michael Adams, who went undercover to infiltrate the market—a mastermind who remains comfortably beyond extradition.

Nevertheless, the case was a watershed moment, as it marked the first use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, in a U.S. prosecution of cybercrime. The federal law was enacted in 1970 and designed to benefit law enforcement agencies going after mob families. In Camez’s case, rather than argue his guilt, lawyers stressed the question of whether Carder.su met the same legal/criminal criteria as the mafia—which, apparently, it does.

Similar struggles to reconcile organized crime and cybercrime are common in the heavily wired nation of India. A unit devoted to online crime in the city of Jaipur, for example, has come under fire for electing to pursue only those reports that indicate organized gang activity.

Back in 2002, the North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology published an essay titled “Organized Cybercrime? How Cyberspace May Affect the Structure of Criminal Relationships.” This was before there was much in the way of cybercrime to study, as author Susan W. Brenner, now a distinguished professor of law and technology at the University of Dayton School of Law, readily admitted. Nevertheless, she was able to put her finger on a future problem in the fight against the type of computer fraud that features an ensemble cast:

“Specifically, instead of assuming stable configurations that persist for years, online criminal organization may incorporate the ‘swarming’ model, in which individuals coalesce for a limited period of time in order to conduct a specifically defined task or set of tasks and, having succeeded, go their separate ways. If cybercrime adopts this organizational model, law enforcement’s task will become much more difficult; in the real-world, the stability and consistency of organized criminal groups gives law enforcement a fixed target upon which to focus its efforts. Police concentrate on identifying a permanent group of participants who engage in a set of routine illicit activities.”

That swarming behavior will sound familiar to anyone who has read about a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack orchestrated by the hacktivist collective Anonymous, in which multiple people attempt suspend a service by overwhelming it with external communications requests. If it’s not necessarily an effective means of making money, it’s still a useful method of collaboration toward a number of ends that range from mischievous to catastrophic. (Indeed, it often appears as if the greatest difference between real-world criminals and online outlaws is that the profit motive cannot be taken for granted. There is just as often an ideological point to be made, or a reputation to be earned, or a thrill to be extracted.)

In any case, the bonds forged between cybercriminals are those of convenience, not blood and mutual obligation. In 2011, Brenner identified the exact sort of legal pothole that she had predicted nine years prior, quoting from a case in which the five defendants, employees of Western Express International, had used the company as a front for the trading of stolen data and the laundering of cybercriminals’ money. The excerpt comes from the majority opinion of the Supreme Court—Appellate Division, which was considering whether New York’s Organized Crime Control Act, a state-specific RICO-like law, should be brought to bear:

[T]he nature of this organization, as indicated by the evidence presented to the grand jury, constitutes a ‘criminal enterprise’ having an ‘ascertainable structure’ as contemplated by the OCCA. … [T]he structure of Vassilenko’s enterprise … differs greatly from the way in which the word ‘structure’ is ordinarily used in the context of organized crime. The ‘structure’ at issue here is, essentially, a web site; there is no social club or office, no hierarchy of appointed positions.

“In other words,” Brenner explained, “it didn’t look like the kind of Mafia family the OCCA and RICO were designed to pursue.” And yet three judges opted to allow an indictment on that basis, helping to set the stage for David Camez’s RICO conviction two years later. The dissenting pair of judges argued that the “defendants’ combined activities, undertaken for their individual benefit, without any chain of command, profit sharing, or continuity of criminal purpose beyond the scope of the criminal incidents alleged in the indictment” were “insufficient to show they engaged in the type of criminal enterprise covered by the statute.” Vadim Vassilenko, ringleader of the ad hoc Western Express gang, in early 2013 pleaded guilty to a handful of money laundering charges, as well as a scheme to defraud and conspiracy in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor.

Just because the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys can now paint cybercrime, however imperfectly, as organized crime, we needn’t anticipate the disappearance of traditional mafias or the rise of purely digital cartels. In fact, the most notable push to monopolize the illegal drug market on Silk Road severely backfired. Nod, a notorious dealer, attempted to collude with other cocaine distributors on Silk Road to set prices even higher, but competitors chose instead to leak the documents in an effort to tarnish his reputation.

It’s far more likely that the crimes of the future will assume a shape that’s difficult for us to imagine at the moment. The Internet has developed a new set of specialized tools that make running an illegal operation easier than ever before: The digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin can be used to launder dirty profits, malware can remotely seize control of devices, and anonymizing browsers like Tor have been a boon to the dissemination of child pornography, now largely accomplished online.

But none of that matters when you don’t have access or expertise. Organized crime has always meant having your fingers in lots of different pies, so it’s natural that the Web would appear a new and fruitful frontier to be divided up, using as many parallel scams as possible. To accomplish that, old-school syndicates will need highly educated recruits. You can spot the generational chasm on the other side of the law, too: South Africa’s police can’t keep up with cutting-edge scams, and in the U.S., we’re grooming college kids to be masters of IT security.

Mobsters who resist the Web now occupy the place of gangs that refused to start bootlegging when Prohibition created a black market in 1920. Whether you get into the industry or not, it will soon change everything about the way business is done, so you may as well stick a foot out for a toehold. When Brenners published her 2002 article, she acknowledged “the perception that cybercrime is perpetrated by hackers, who are loners, and are therefore not inclined to engage in group criminality; and the fact that, to date, most documented cybercrime reveals that a majority of incidents involve individuals, not groups.”

Twelve years on, plenty of lone wolves still stalk the digital plains, and some are married to their isolation. Others are bound to form packs.

Anonymous affiliate GhostSec thwarts Isis terror plots in New York and Tunisia

Reuters/Stephane Mahe

Online hacktivists affiliated with Anonymous have assisted in preventing terrorist attacks on New York and Tunisia planned by Islamic State (Isis), according to a counter-terrorism expert.

Michael Smith, an adviser to the US Congress and co-founder of national security firm Kronos Advisory, revealed that information regarding potential attacks provided by the group GhostSec was used by law-enforcement agencies to disrupt IS operations.

“It is my understanding that data collected by the group, and presented to law enforcement and intelligence officials by me, was helpful to authorities in Tunisia, who disrupted a suspected Islamic State cell around 4 July,” Smith told IBTimes UK.

“This data was collected pursuant to the group’s efforts in monitoring social media accounts managed by suspected Islamic State supporters. As per their assessment, this plot would have been mobilised soon after the recent attack that occurred at a popular resort in Tunisia.”

A member of Ghost Security – or GhostSec – by the name of DigitaShadow revealed that information gathered from social media regarding potential attacks was sent to Smith, who evaluated each threat and forwarded those he believed to be credible to the relevant law-enforcement agencies. This led to the arrests of 17 suspects in Tunisia earlier this month.

Anonymous OpISIS via  @lexinerus on Twitter

“GhostSec is constantly monitoring social media and the internet for threats against governments and its citizens,” DigitaShadow told IBTimes UK. “On 2 July, we encountered an Islamic State account engaging in threats against tourists in Tunisia. They made references to a suicide bomber in an area near the Homut Souk market, which is a very populated area.

“They also made direct threats against British and Jewish tourists, so we began looking for events near areas that those nationalities visited. We located two churches in the direct vicinity that were holding services where British and Jewish tourists frequented. We collected all of the relevant intel and evidence and forwarded it to the FBI through our government contact.

“Two days later, we were debriefed that arrests had been made as a result of our intelligence.”

New York IS plot foiled

DigitaShadow revealed that the group also provided leads to authorities that proved instrumental in foiling a terror attack in New York on 4 July. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that more than 10 arrests took place in the US in the build-up to the 4 July Independence Day holiday weekend on suspects connected to IS terrorism plots.

Neither Smith nor the FBI was able to confirm whether the arrests in New York came as a result of information gathered by GhostSec. However Smith did confirm that data from GhostSec was used in counter-terrorism operations in Tunisia.

“Why not embrace the efforts of third-party hackers like Anonymous to dismantle the Islamic State – and even give them the resources to do so?” – Wmerson Brooking

The collaboration between the hacktivist group and law-enforcement agencies comes after a US defence policy researcher urged the US government to support groups such as Anonymous in the fight against IS.

Emerson Brooking, a research associate at the Council of Foreign Relation, said in March that the semi-anonymous digital currency bitcoin could be used to fund the efforts of hacktivists in taking down websites and social-media accounts associated with IS.

Brooking said: “How is it that the US government, capable of coordinating a complex air campaign from nearly 6,000 miles away, remains virtually powerless against the Islamic State’s online messaging and distribution network?

“If the United States is struggling to counter the Islamic State’s dispersed, rapidly regenerative online presence, why not turn to groups native to this digital habitat? Why not embrace the efforts of third-party hackers like Anonymous to dismantle the Islamic State – and even give them the resources to do so?”

GhostSec has previously worked with hacktivist collectives CtrlSec and Anonymous to take down websites and release databases of Twitter accounts associated with IS. The #OpIsis campaign recently saw the details of more than 25,000 accounts released online.

“To date our operations have met with resounding success,” said a spokesperson for GhostSec. “We have terminated over 57,000 Islamic State social media accounts that were used for recruitment purposes and transmission of threats against life and property.

“Our operatives have also detected numerous terror plots and responded accordingly with federal law enforcement agencies. Defending and preserving freedom begins in cyberspace.”

Leaked NSA Documents Reveal The Best Way To Stay Anonymous Online


It’s not easy to be truly anonymous online. Sure, there are plenty of chat apps and secret-sharing sites that claim to offer you privacy, but it’s tricky to know whether US intelligence agencies have a backdoor to access them.

The best way to stay anonymous online has been to use Tor, a special kind of web browser developed to help US government employees hide their tracks online.

But if you want to be properly anonymous, you need a combination of extra services and websites on top of Tor to avoid detection. Plenty of online guides offer advice on the subject, but it’s always been hit and miss.

Now, leaked NSA documents provide a big clue on how to remain hidden. They show that the agency has trouble breaking certain methods of encryption.

Der Spiegel published a collection of documents that detail what systems the NSA has troubling decrypting. Previous documents have focused mainly on what the NSA is good at, not what it finds difficult.

The documents reveal that the NSA ranks targets according to how difficult they are to decrypt. There are five internal levels: One to five. Level one is known as “trivial,” meaning it’s pretty easy for the NSA to track targets or decrypt messages. But level five is “catastrophic,” which essentially means that the NSA can’t break the encryption.

The NSA says that reading someone’s Facebook message is a level two “minor” task. And monitoring people using Tor is tricky, with the NSA classing that as a “major” level four problem.

So any level of anonymity classed as level five, known as “catastrophic,” means that the NSA will find it nearly impossible to break.

The NSA identifies one anonymity method that it warns is virtually impossible to break. Here’s the method outlined in the leaked documents:

  • Tor
  • VPN
  • CSpace
  • ZRTP

Let’s break that down.

Tor is the special kind of web browser that helps people stay anonymous online by encrypting their web traffic.

A VPN is a service that makes an internet connection more secure, using proxy servers to hide their real-world location.

CSpace is a kind of anonymous internet chat service that uses heavy encryption to protect any files sent over its network.

ZRTP, the last part of the method, is a kind of encryption for voice calls and text chats.

Combine the above stack of services together, using multiple kind of encryption, a special web browser, and a service to hide your location, and the NSA says in its internal documents that it probably won’t be able to read your messages. The leaked NSA document says that the encryption method results in a “near-total loss/lack of insight to target communications, presence.”

Anonymous Threatens To Release Thousands Of Chinese And Hong Kong Government Documents


Anonymous, the nebulous online activist group that uses hacking to further causes it supports, has threatened a major blackout of Chinese and Hong Kong government websites and to leak tens of thousands of government email address details.

The group, under the banner of “Operation Hong Kong” or “#OpHongKong” and “#OpHK” on Twitter, said on Friday it would launch a mass effort against Chinese government servers to bring down their websites via Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on Saturday.

DDoS attacks attempt to cripple networks by overwhelming them with internet traffic.

“Here’s your heads up, prepare for us, try to stop it, the only success you will have will be taking all your sites offline,” an Anonymous statement posted online said. “China, you cannot stop us. You should have expected us before abusing your power against the citizens of Hong Kong.”

Demonstrations in Hong Kong have seen the use of tear gas, violent clashes, and mass disruptions to business and traffic as people campaign for the right to democratically elect the Asian financial hub’s leader.

Hong Kong’s refusal so far to negotiate with protesters, and a police reaction that many labeled as heavy-handed, has sparked widespread condemnation that has now spread to Anonymous, which often campaigns for civil liberties by attacking people or institutions it sees as opponents of those rights.

“If this is true, it will show that the Chinese government is a victim of internet hacking,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing. “China has consistently stressed our opposition to all internet hacking attack activities. We rebuke the acts of this organization.”

The Chinese government’s Hong Kong Liaison Office also said its website had been attacked twice on Wednesday and Thursday, blocking visitors to the site for a time.

“This kind of internet attack violates the law and social morals, and we have already reported it to the police,” it said, adding that the website was running normally again.

Among the websites Anonymous said it would target were those of China’s Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Justice and Hong Kong police.

“Prepping for massive DDoS attacks, Database dumps, etc … Will be destroying #ChinaGovernment,” wrote one Anonymous participant on Twitter.

China’s Defense Ministry, in a statement sent to Reuters, said its website was subject to numerous hacking attacks every day from both home and overseas.

“We have taken necessary steps to protect the safe operation of the Defense Ministry website,” it added.

The State Internet Information Office, China’s internet regulator, declined to comment. The Ministry of Public Security declined to immediately comment by telephone. The Hong Kong Police Force was not available for immediate comment.

The Ministry of Justice said it was not aware of the threat from Anonymous and that its website wasn’t its responsibility to maintain.

The Legal Network Media Beijing Company, which maintains the Ministry of Justice site, said it had not had official notice about any attack, nor had it detected any attacks on the website so far.

“If there are future hacking attacks, we have confidence they can be resolved,” said a technician at the company who gave his surname as Zhong.

FBI Investigates ‘Anonymous’ For Attacking Home Computers Of Ferguson Police Officers

A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, symbolic of the hacktivist group "Anonymous", takes part in a protest in central Brussels January 28, 2012. Online activist group Anonymous protested against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which they said would curtail freedom of expression and encourage surveillance by internet service providers.

The FBI has launched an investigation into a series of attacks on the personal computers and online accounts of officers on the Ferguson, Missouri police department, CNN reports.

CNN is citing three law enforcement officials, who apparently wanted to remain, uh, anonymous. The officials said the cyber attacks are believed to be from the ‘Anonymous’ group, a shadowy collective of hacktivists with no clear leader.

The law officers targeted in the attacks are part of the city’s response to the ongoing demonstrations around the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9.

The shooting of Brown set off a weeks-long series of demonstrations in Ferguson, which have been partly peaceful and partly violent.

Anonymous launched a massive DoS attack on Ferguson’s city servers last Thursday, which caused the servers to crash and forced cops to use text messages to communicate.

The group also went after the cops themselves, hacking city servers for personal information. Anonymous hackers posted information about St. Louis County Police Chief Belmar’s wife and his house on Instagram, calling for people to go and do them harm, reports said.

With the attacks now focused on personal computers, Anonymous is further zeroing in on the personal lives of officers it believes were involved in the city’s reaction to demonstrators.