Published December 13, 2010
He says he played no part in “Operation Payback,” but Boston’s Gregg Housh is intimately aware of the recent cyberattacks on Visa, MasterCard, Amazon.com, PayPal and the Swedish government.
Housh has made himself the unofficial spokesman for Anonymous, a loosely organized group of hackers with a conscience — “hacktivists,” they call themselves. Housh is our guest today on Radio Boston.
Authorities already know his name, Housh tells the Christian Science Monitor, because he has worked with Anonymous before. He spent three months in federal prison as a teenager for software piracy.
Last week, Anonymous carried out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on companies that have cut ties to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. The MasterCard and Visa websites crumbled within minutes; Amazon.com and PayPal remained standing.
“What we may be looking at is 15- and 16-year-old kids who do this … not as a prank but as a protest,” said Mark Rasch, who founded the Justice Department computer crimes unit, in an NPR interview.
“And do we really want to spend the time, the money, the energy and the resources to bring a bunch of these kids over from Belgium or Holland?”
In a DDoS attack, a network of computers, called a botnet, attempts to overwhelm a Web server with requests until the site becomes disabled. I asked people on Twitter for help explaining DDoS in plain English, and my favorite response was from @jamespoling. I’ll adapt his analogy: Imagine 5,000 people drive on to the Pike and pay the toll in pennies, effectively shutting down the interstate.
Housh is the closest known connection to the shadowy group who will talk on the record. Listen to the show at 3 p.m. for our interview.