It takes extraordinary circumstances to unite Hollywood filmmakers, one of rock’s most outlandish stars and a porn company. But when you’re facing off against 4chan, any ally is a good one.
4chan, for the unfamiliar, is the Internet’s most infamous message and image board. And its denizens are the online equivalent of Beetlejuice. Mutter their name and they’ll appear, but you may not like the results.
The users, who collectively call themselves “anonymous,” are public enemy number one of the entertainment industry, which accuses the vast majority of them of piracy and lending support to the groups that host pirated content online. As the rhetoric has increased in recent months, though, the entertainment industry has learned that poking the hornet’s nest can be painful.
Vigilante users of the site have taken it upon themselves recently to launch a flurry of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on a number of Websites with ties to all corners of the entertainment industry.
The attacks started in late September, targeting the Motion Picture Association of America(MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Anonymous attackers, using software known as “Low Orbit Ion Cannons,” repeatedly pinged the servers of both Web sites. When done simultaneously by enough users, this can bring the site down – usually quickly and without warning.
The anarchists call it “Operation Payback” and say they’re launching these attacks in retaliation for efforts by anti-piracy crusaders to shut down file-sharing sites, such as “The Pirate Bay.”
Both attacks lasted less than a day – and probably wouldn’t have made news outside of entertainment industry trades and tech sites – until Gene Simmons got involved.
The front man for the rock group KISS riled pirates and their supporters with comments at a convention in Cannes, France earlier this month.
“Make sure your brand is protected,” he said. “Make sure there are no incursions. Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars. … The music industry was asleep at the wheel and didn't have the balls to sue every fresh-faced, freckle-faced college kid who downloaded material.”
The next day (and for roughly the following 36 hours) his site was toast.
Simmons has vowed to find those responsible, but few expect he’ll be able to follow through.
Last week, Hustler saw its site hit with a DDoS attack, taking it down for a couple of hours after the company targeted more than 5,000 alleged users of BitTorrent sites who downloaded content owned by the company.
Friday evening, it looks like the RIAA will be hit again, in retaliation for the shutdown of the Limewire music sharing service, according to a countdown on the group’s organizing Website. (It also has a Facebook page – with nearly 900 supporters.)
"Make sure your brand is protected...Make sure there are no incursions. Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars."
“Whats (sic) stopping them from abusing their powers?” organizers wrote. “A private entity should not have control over the freedom of information. … We must take revenge. It’s time for payback. If they have taken down Limewire, then we shall take them down in kind. No more shall we wait. Its (sic) time for action.”
The site also listed the home address of the RIAA’s CEO, his salary information and his wife’s name, encouraging members to arrange for pizza and other deliveries to him on the 29th.
While DDoS attacks are generally more of an annoyance than a stab at the bottom line of the groups and people targeted so far, it does underscore the position of the entertainment industry in this fight: Despite its best efforts to undermine them, the pirates and their allies can come together quickly and effectively.
“Is there an immediate impact on stocks? No,” says Eric Handler, senior equity analyst with MKM Partners. “But in terms of distribution deals, hacking is a stumbling block. … Any time you have disruptions because of hacking, it’s always a big concern.”