Hackers claiming ties to Anonymous were able to overtake MIT’s website earlier this morning in memory of Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist that committed suicide last Friday in the midst of federal charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The group also called for an overhaul of computer crime laws, claiming the government’s prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice.
The message from Anonymous showed up on at least two MIT website written in a bold red-on –black formatting, according to reports. The group goes on to question the punishment regimens of US computer crime laws as well as the justice of pre-trial bargaining.
If you recall, Swartz was facing heavy fines and up to 30 years in jail following his arrest two years ago for allegedly using a laptop stashed away inside an MIT maintenance closet to access an archive of academic journals using a script written in Python. Prosecutors say he downloaded some 4.8 million articles valued in the millions of dollars.
As the story goes, JSTOR (those behind the archive) wasn’t interested in pressing charges but the US government moved ahead with the indictment anyway. Elliot Peters, Swartz’s lawyer, was in the process of negotiating a plea bargain but prosecutors were firm on the idea of Swartz spending time in prison for his actions.
The Internet activist responsible for helping create RSS and one of the early co-founders was found hanged in his apartment in New York on January 11, victim of an apparent suicide.