Telescope Protesters Are Not Acting With "Aloha"

Linda Musthaler
By | May 01, 2015

Posted in: Network Security Trends

Most people would consider Hawaii to be an idyllic place, but there's quite a controversy erupting over the plan to build a new telescope on Hawaii Island ("the Big island"). Not just any telescope, mind you, but one of the world's largest, known as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Construction of the $1 billion+ scientific telescope began in July of 2014 atop the Mauna Kea volcanic mountain on the Big Island. However, construction was interrupted by native Hawaiian protesters in October of 2014 due to environmental concerns.

Native Hawaiians consider the land where the proposed telescope is to be built sacred land, and they are concerned about potential impact to the environment. The project has now become the focal point of political conflict, litigation and ongoing protests by community activists.

The protest took a digital turn recently when hacktivists launched a DDoS attack against the project's website, TMT.org. A group affiliated with Anonymous, Operation Green Rights, claimed on its Twitter account and website that it was responsible for this DDoS attack as well as one against the Aloha State’s official website. Both websites were under attack off and on for several hours one day at the end of April.

In addition, the Canada France Hawaii Telescope that already exists atop Mauna Kea found its phone and email systems under attack. A spokesman for the University of Hawaii, which operates the telescope, says an email account was spammed with anti-Thirty Meter Telescope emails and the phone system received hundreds of phone calls per hour in a form of denial of service attack.

As I pointed out in a previous article, hacktivism is growing as a motivation for DDoS attacks. Anyone who stands in opposition to any sort of commercial effort, political movement or social program can easily launch a DDoS attack for just a few dollars. The attack can be a mere inconvenience, as it was for TMT.org and the state of Hawaii, or it can be quite devastating, as it was when the Sony Playstation Network was knocked offline for days—not just once but twice. Website administrators who consider their site to be an important asset should take steps to protect it with appropriate anti-DDoS measures.

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