A group of hackers attacked the website of conservative activist group Americans for Prosperity on Monday. The attack used a simple but effective method known as a distributed denial of service attack.
The group, which calls itself "Anonymous", has attacked a number of websites in recent months that it perceives as political enemies. Those have included the websites of MasterCard and Amazon, apparently targeted for their opposition to the online whistleblower organization WikiLeaks.
Anonymous posted an over-the-top, conspiratorial press release on its website, addressed to the "Citizens of the United States of America". The release stated, in part (no links for cyber-criminals - Google it to find the full statement, if you wish):
It has come to our attention that the brothers, David and Charles Koch--the billionaire owners of Koch Industries--have long attempted to usurp American Democracy. Their actions to undermine the legitimate political process in Wisconsin are the final straw. Starting today we fight back.
Left unstated was why the fourteen Wisconsin legislators who have fled the state to literally stop the democratic process - with the stated intention of doing so - were not targets for their roles in usurping democracy.
AFP fired back with a release of its own, calling on political organizations of all stripes to condemn the illegal attack. Tim Phillips, AFP's president, insisted that the organization "will not be intimidated."
Americans for Prosperity has established itself as a leading voice in one of the great political debates underway in this country over government spending and how best to restore the fiscal solvency of governments at both the state and federal level. Yesterday, a group claimed credit for an attempt to silence our voice and to stifle that debate through an illegal attack on our website. While the political debate over government spending can be heated, we hope that even our opponents will join us in condemning this illegal attack on our free speech rights as unacceptable and irredeemable. Our country cannot meet the great challenges before us if we cannot have a free and open discussion about the threats that we face.
Americans for Prosperity will not be intimidated and will not be deterred from our effort to support responsible economic policies, including the efforts of Governor Walker and other democratically elected leaders in that state to balance the budget through common-sense reforms.
The attempt to take down AFP's website may actually help the group's image, some analysts have predicted. Politico's Ben Smith predicted that the attack "will likely also help establish AfP among conservatives as the key group at Governor Scott Walker's side."
The attack is the latest instance in a troubling trend among those opposed to Walker's efforts to reform the state government's relationship with public employee unions. Many liberal groups and individuals have sought, of late, to silence voices they perceive as politically opposed to their own.
Ironically, Anonymous, which has no official political platform or affiliation, prides itself in the fact that in its online forums, "No censorship takes place!" That is a courtesy it apparently will not extend to groups with which Anonymous members do not agree.
Note: as of this posting, AFP's website is fully functional.