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Sunday, January 27, 2008

A group of vigilantes--calling themselves Anonymous, or Anon--are escalating their attacks against the Church of Scientology

Anonymous steps up its war with Scientology
A group of vigilantes--calling themselves Anonymous, or Anon--are escalating their attacks against the Church of Scientology in what they consider to be Internet censorship by issuing new video challenges. In one video posted to YouTube, Anonymous addresses the many news organizations covering the war, stating that the group has been watching. While the individuals behind the effort generally support the coverage, they also severely fault the media.

"We find it interesting that you did not mention the other objections in your news reporting. The stifling and punishment of dissent within the totalitarian organization of Scientology. The numerous, alleged human rights violations. Such as the treatment and events that led to the deaths of victims of the cult such as Lisa McPherson.

This Cult is Nothing but a psychotically driven pyramid scheme.

Why are you, the news media, afraid of discussing these matters? It is your duty to report on these matters.You are failing in your duty."

Lisa McPherson was a member of the Flag Service Organization, a branch of the Church of Scientology, whose death in 1995 remains controversial. Although the Church of Scientology was initially held responsible, felony charges against it were dropped when the medical examiner ruled her death was an accident. A civil suit against the church by McPherson's parents was settled in 2004.

At one point in the video, Anonymous says, perhaps in response to its growing numbers of critics, "this is not religious persecution, but the suppression of a powerful, criminal fascist regime."

A request for comment from the Church of Scientology has not yet been answered.

On Friday, Anonymous also posted on YouTube a second YouTube video to the Church of Scientology, this time addressed to its many followers.

"Your religious beliefs are not wrong, like any other religion, and they are yours to keep. However beliefs should not come at a price. Not from your wallet or compromising your thoughts.

Those who have left feel a new life, a rebirth into true freedom. You can join them if you wish. You may not believe us. We ask of you one thing: Make up your own mind. That is a sentence of more profound meaning for you now than at any other time in your life."

Both videos continue a trend in using a computer-generated voice over stylized video. A Web site called Project Chanology continues to detail present and future actions by Anonymous and others.


Hackers Hit Scientology With Online Attack
Hacker group claims to have knocked the Church of Scientology's Web site offline with a distributed denial-of-service attack.

A group of hackers calling itself "Anonymous" has hit the Church of Scientology's Web site with an online attack.

The attack was launched Jan. 19 by Anonymous, which is seeking media attention to help "save people from Scientology by reversing the brainwashing," according to a Web page maintained by Anonymous.

Anonymous claims to have knocked the Church's Web site offline with a distributed denial-of-service attack, in which many computers bombard the victim's server with requests, overwhelming it with data in the hope of ultimately knocking the system offline. True to its name, Anonymous does not disclose the true identities of its members.

The attacks were spurred by the Church's efforts to remove video of movie star Tom Cruise professing his admiration for the religion, according to an Anonymous video manifesto posted to Youtube.

"For the good of your followers, for the good of mankind and for our own enjoyment, we shall proceed to expel you from the Internet and systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form," a creepy computerized voice states in the video. Anonymous followed up this dispatch with a second video blasting the media for failing to completely report the group's criticisms of the church. This video was taken down Friday by Youtube, citing a "terms of use violation."

Anonymous has managed to generate a measurable attack against the Web site. Over the past few days, the site was hit with several DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, which flooded it with as much as 220M bps of traffic, according to Jose Nazario, a senior security engineer with Arbor Networks, whose company compiles data on Internet attacks.

The Anonymous campaign shows some level of organization. "220M bps is probably about in the middle of attack sizes," Nazario said. "It's not just one or two guys hanging out in the university dorms doing this."

On average, the attacks lasted about 30 minutes and used up 168M bps of bandwidth. In the past year, Arbor has seen attacks on other sites hit 40G bps, or 200 times the strength of the Anonymous event.

Shortly after it was hit with the DDOS flood, the Web site was moved to a server hosted by Prolexic Technologies, according to data compiled by Netcraft, an Internet monitoring company. Prolexic specializes in protecting companies from DDOS attacks.

A Prolexic spokeswoman confirmed that the Church of Scientology is one of the company's clients, but declined to offer more details on the matter. The Church of Scientology did not return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

The secretive Church of Scientology's practices, including its efforts to use copyright law to restrict the dissemination of information about the church, have engendered a lot of criticism within the Internet community. But one Web site set up to criticize Scientology -- called Operation Clambake -- called the DDOS attacks a bad idea. "Attacking Scientology like that will just make them play the religious persecution card," wrote Andreas Heldal-Lund, the Web site's owner. "They will use it to defend their own counter actions when they try to shatter criticism and crush critics without mercy."

If publicity was Anonymous' ultimate goal, the group has had some success. Late in the day Friday, seven of the top 10 stories on the news-linking site related to Scientology or to Anonymous' communiques.

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