Hackers with Anonymous recently took over the U.S. Sentencing Commission website, positing a playable “Asteroids” video game on it to protest the government’s prosecution of programmer and Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide in early January.
The hackers also posted a video with a Guy Fawkes face with a computerized voice, talking the usual Anonymous rhetoric of “We do not forgive; we do not forget.” The video was also posted on YouTube.
It also featured a picture of Swartz, who was prosecuted for downloading millions of articles from online academic journal database JSTOR. Swartz sought to publish the articles and was facing a 10-year jail term and a $1 million fine. Swartz has been credited with essentially inventing RSS feeds and was a co-founder of Reddit, the popular social media website.
Many activists and his family have blamed Swartz’s death on overzealous Department of Justice prosecutors and outdated computer crimes laws. He was found hanging in his Brooklyn apartment on Jan. 11.
Following his death, Anonymous threatened to leak sensitive government information to protest Swartz’s death, but instead they posted a game of “Asteroids” on the Sentencing Commission’s website complete with a “Konami code,” according to Sophos’s Naked Security blog. The site, which was apparently taken down due to the hack, then presented a message saying “PEW PEW PEW PEW PEW! End Prosecutorial Overreach!”
Sophos also said the Eastern District of Michigan’s United States Probation Office’s website was hacked and contained the “Asteroids” game. As of Monday morning, that website was also taken down.
The text of the statement left by Anonymous was also uploaded to the website Pastebin, which said that Swartz’s death is part of Justice Department’s “departure” from the “noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined.”
When Swartz was killed, “a line was crossed,” the statement reads, adding that the young activist was “killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win.”
In explaining why it posted “Asteroids” on the website, a Twitter account with Anonymous said that it is “a far better game than sentencing innocents and scapegoats.”
The FBI told The Associated Press this weekend that it is launching an investigation into the Sentencing Commission hack.
“We were aware as soon as it happened and are handling it as a criminal investigation. We are always concerned when someone illegally accesses another person’s or government agency’s network,” FBI spokesman Richard McFeely told the newswire.
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