Menu
Can a DDoS attack on Whitehouse.gov be a valid protest?

Can a DDoS attack on Whitehouse.gov be a valid protest?

A software engineer wants to take down the Whitehouse.gov site to oppose Trump's inauguration

When Donald Trump is inaugurated as the U.S. President on Friday, Juan Soberanis intends to protest the event -- digitally.

His San Francisco-based protest platform is calling on Americans to oppose Trump’s presidency by visiting the Whitehouse.gov site and overloading it with too much traffic. In effect, he’s proposing a distributed denial-of-service attack, an illegal act under federal law. But Soberanis doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s the equivalent of someone marching on Washington, D.C,” he said on Monday. “Civil disobedience has been part of the American democratic process.”

Soberanis’s call to action is raising eyebrows and highlights the isssue of whether DDoS attacks should be made a legitimate form of protest. Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, sending a command to a protected computer with the intent to cause damage can be judged a criminal offense. But that hasn’t stopped hacktivists and cyber criminals from using DDoS attacks to force websites offline.

In 2013, the U.S. charged 13 people affiliated with the hacktivist group Anonymous for launching DDoS attacks on government entities, trade groups and law firms.

Typically, hackers launch such attacks by using several servers, or huge numbers of infected PCs called botnets, to flood their targets with an overwhelming amount of traffic.

Soberanis's protest effort is simpler. He’s hoping that millions of individuals join his protest by visiting Whitehouse.gov and continually refreshing the page.

“There’s nothing illegal,” he said. “We are just a large group of people, making a GET request,” he said, referring to the HTTP request method to access a web page.

Soberanis, who works as a software engineer, created his Protester.io platform about a month ago to encourage activism. It currently has no funding, but the site managed to gain a bit of buzz last week. The PR Newswire public-relations service circulated a press release from Protestor.io, only to retract it later after realizing the release was calling for a “take down” of Whitehouse.gov.

“There’s also been some detractors,” he said. “They support Trump and have a very different viewpoint.”

Soberanis isn’t the first to argue that DDoSing can be a form of legitimate protest. Briefly in 2013, a failed online petition was posted on the White House’s website about the same subject. It argued that DDoSing a website was not a form of hacking, but a new way for protesting.

“Instead of a group of people standing outside a building to occupy the area, they are having their computer occupy a website,” the petition said.

Some agree and think that DDoS attacks, in certain scenarios, can work as a valid form of protest.

Laws like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act are “over broad” and “chilling” political speech, said Molly Sauter, author of The Coming Swarm, a book that examines DDoS attacks used in activism.

A DDoS attack on Whitehouse.gov -- a site designed more for public relations than for operations – also wouldn’t disrupt any major government activities, Sauter said. Taking it down could be seen as “more or less like protesting outside on the street,” she said.

“Now, is that going to be successful?” she asked. “Frankly, it’s not likely that the Whitehouse.gov site wouldn’t have DDoS protection.”

But others think a DDoS attack on the Whitehouse.gov is still a crime. Making it legal would open a can of worms, they say.

“If they can do this to Whitehouse.gov with impunity now, can they also do it to Exxon without worry of legal troubles?” said Mark Sauter (no relation to Molly Sauter), a former U.S. Army officer who consults security and tech companies.

He questions why protestors like Soberanis are resorting to DDoS attacks when they can publish their own websites or speech against Trump.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags hacking

Featured

Slideshows

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

Partners are actively building out security practices and services to match, yet remain challenged by a lack of guidance in the market. This exclusive Reseller News Roundtable - in association with Sophos - assessed the making of an MSSP, outlining the blueprint for growth and how partners can differentiate in New Zealand.

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ
Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

The leading players of the New Zealand channel came together to celebrate a year of achievement at the inaugural Reseller News Platinum Club lunch in Auckland. Following the Reseller News Innovation Awards, Platinum Club provides a platform to showcase the top performing partners and start-ups of the past 12 months, with more than ​​50 organisations in the spotlight.​​​

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018
Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

HP has honoured its leading partners in New Zealand during 2018, following 12 months of growth through the local channel. Unveiled during the fourth running of the ceremony in Auckland, the awards recognise and celebrate excellence, growth, consistency and engagement of standout Kiwi partners.

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ
Show Comments