The controversy around a United Nations body’s efforts to regulate the Internet have already been opposed in a U.S. Congressional resolution, a million-signature petition from Google, and by one of the Internet’s most famous creators. Now a group of hackers has registered their protest in the form they know best: Stealing and dumping millions of seemingly random usernames and passwords onto the Web.
The hacker group Team Ghostshell posted a announcement Monday claiming that it had published 1.6 million hacked users’ usernames and passwords from a grab bag of targets, including the European Space Agency, the Center for Advanced Engineering, the aerospace contractor Crestwood Technology Group, Bigelow Aerospace, General Dynamics, the Japanese photonics firm Hamamatsu, a nanotechnology industry group, and many others.
Though the victims of the breach mostly related to the aerospace industry, the hackers’ message seemed to focus on a controversial power grab by the International Telecommunications Union. That U.N. body, meeting this week in Dubai, ostensibly aims to give U.N. countries’ governments a stronger mandate over the Internet traffic flowing through their territory and allow control of domain name allocations by a central U.N. body.
“The ITU (International Telecommunication Union) is hosting a meeting right now that may very well decide the fate of how the [internet] will be managed in the future,” Ghostshell’s message reads. “Basically the UN may very well give total power to the ITU on how to handle everything.”
The data dump, according to its accompanying statement, is aimed at “promoting hacktivism worldwide and drawing attention to the freedom of information on the net. For those two factors we have prepared a juicy release of 1.6 million accounts/records from fields such as aerospace, nanotechnology, banking, law, education, government, military, all kinds of wacky companies & corporations working for the department of defense, airlines and more.”
The statement offers Ghost Shell’s support to protests initiated by the hacker movement Anonymous against the ITU’s Internet regulation, encouraging websites to “deface themselves” with anti-ITU messages. Then it launches into a long screed against the law enforcement agencies and security firms that it boasts it has outwitted over the last year.
Publishing an arbitrary collection of stolen data may not be the best form of political protest against a UN body with no relation to the breach’s victims. But with or without hacktivists’ help, attention and opposition to the ITU is snowballing. Vint Cerf, one of the engineers responsible for creating the Internet, has spoken out against the ITU’s efforts. Google has collected a million signatures on a petition against the new regulations, and Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, Cisco, AT&T and Verizon have all taken stands against it, too. Last week, Congress joined in with an anti-ITU resolution in favor of a “global Internet, free from government control.”
Anonymous published a lengthy statement of its own Monday, speaking out against the ITU’s regulations and specifically the “deep-packet inspection” standard it created last week for control and censorship of Internet traffic. “Don’t mess with the net. We like what we have. Our internet is working perfectly as an free and open model,” the statement reads. “It is your old systems that don’t work correctly. We cannot allow idiots to destroy our internet.”
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