In just six months, Black Lives Matter’s main website and its affiliate sites were hacked 117 times by an anonymous cyber group looking to drive home the point that “All Lives Matter,’ according to a new report.
The document, published Wednesday by Canadian nonprofit eQualit.ie, which offers digital support to prominent civil and human rights groups, showed that a collective known as the Ghost Squad Hackers first infiltrated blacklivesmatter.com in April. The group went on to launch 100 denial-of-service attacks on the social justice movement, accusing it of “fighting racism with racism.”
“We have taken down a couple of your websites and will continue to take down, deface, and harvest your databases until your leaders step up and discourage racist and hateful behavior,” said a computerized speaking voice in a cryptic YouTube video uploaded by the Anonymous-affiliated group titled “Anonymous Exposes Anti-White Racism.” “Very simply, we expect nothing less than a statement from your leadership that all hate is wrong … If this does not happen, we will consider you another hate group and you can expect our attention.”
According to tech website Ars Technica, a Ghost Squad member identified only as @_s1ege claimed responsibility for the blacklivesmatter.com shutdown in a series of tweets posted April 29. The hacker charged BLM with attacking “innocent individuals of cultural appropriation while speaking English” and claimed the social justice organization was no better than the Ku Klux Klan.
— s1ege (@_s1ege) April 30, 2016
“I s1ege, started this operation after attacking the KKK [because] I realized the individuals in the Black Lives Matter movement were acting no better – some even promote genocide of the Caucasian race,” @_se1ge wrote of his BLM attack. “This will not be tolerated.”
“What angered me and the other members of Ghost Squad was that the leaders also do not speak on this topic,” he/she continued. “This was not the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., and should not be supported or promoted by any movement. All Lives Matter!”
Created in response to the deadly shooting of Black teen Michael Brown by a white officer, the Black Lives Matter movement has since mobilized to become a nationally recognized organization fighting racial and social injustice while demanding sweeping reforms to the U.S. justice system. The group has picked up some critics along the way, who, like @_s1ege, equate them to a hate group with racist sentiments against whites.
“Through our emails and our social media accounts, we get death threats all the time,” said Janisha Gabriel, owner of design firm Haki Creatives, which helps build websites for BLM and groups like it. “For anyone who’s involved in this type of work, you know that you take certain risks.”
Ars Technica reported that disdain for BLM has become so intense, that its gotten harder and harder to keep its websites from being hacked or defaced by Ghost Squad and other hacker collectives. Deflect, the nonprofit group that currently provides DDoS mitigation services to BLM, said it was able to mitigate the threat of attack against BLM following April’s incident, but subsequent larger-scale attacks required them to implement near-constant monitoring of the group’s website.
The eQualit.ie report on cyber attacks waged against the social justice organization also included timelines of each attack, who launched them and their effectiveness. Moreover, the analysis detailed how some of the DDoS attack could be carried out for “as little as $1, and with access to public documentation and malicious software within easy reach.”
“Our analysis shows a variety of technical methods used in attempts to bring down this website,” authors of the report stated. “The characterization of these attacks point to a “mob” mentality of malicious actors jumping on board in response to call-outs made on social media and covert channels.”
“Some methods … appear to have been coordinated, whilst in other cases, it was clear that many actors jumped on the bandwagon of a more powerful attack to claim some of the credit,” it continued. “These small, loosely organized mobs appear minutes to hours after the start of the original attack and lob a hodge-podge of various attack methods, often to no effect.”