Did 4chan Hack Itself?

dennis the menace Did 4chan Hack Itself?4chan is down!

After a moderately-successful cyberattack on Bank of America yesterday by a group of hackers that frequent 4chan, the image-based forum often described as the “id of the Internet” is unavailable.

The outage is apparently due to a distributed denial of service attack, usually accomplished by overwhelming a Web site with requests.

“Site is down, due to DDoS,” owner Christopher Poole (a.k.a. Moot) posted to 4chan’s status blog. “We now join the ranks of MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, et al.-an exclusive club!”

Whodunnit?

Bank of America and other recent victims have been accused, as have Anonymous and other known hackers. And then there’s the old False Flag theory. “I[t] may be that they are running this DDoS on themselves so that they will be seen as innocent victims just like Paypal, Mastercard, etc.,” a commenter wrote on the Y Combinator-run news forum Hacker News. “The packets are coming from inside the house!” wrote another.

On its Twitter feed, Anonymous seems to be denying any involvement, as has notorious 4chan enemy Jester.

“Whoever is doing this is our common enemy and a threat to freedom of expression,” read an update from the Twitter account associated with Anonymous.

Some nameless individuals have started posting videos to YouTube claiming responsibility.

If it turns out to be one of the big guys attacking 4chan, it wouldn’t be the first time the image board has been targeted by a major corporation. Verizon admitted blocking traffic to 4chan in February, which Poole claimed was an overreaction by the provider to an anonymously-perpetrated DDoS attack.

So is Bank of America responsible? Doubtful, for two reasons: DDoS attacks are illegal, and 4chan is not responsible for the attacks against Bank of America, MasterCard and others–the perpetrators just happen to be some of its members. Also, the bank already has its hands full dealing with rumors of an impending Wikileaks dump.

Whomever the perp is won’t get much more out of the attack than satisfaction. While knocking out 4chan may cause a shortage of new internet memes, its users can easily congregate elsewhere while the site is down—and plot their revenge.

4chan’s DDoS was discovered early this morning, with Moot posting the official status update at 2:39 a.m. and a Twitter update around the same time: “Site temporarily unavailable due to DDoS -or- we figured @MasterCard, @PayPal, and #Visa were lonely.”

The site has been down for ten hours now. Don’t tell Hitler (this video, like many related to 4chan, is not safe for work).

UPDATE: Apparently the Bank of America attack was coordinated on 4chan–so perhaps one of the targeted companies has the motivation to go after 4chan after all. We’re waiting to hear Moot’s opinion.

UPDATE: Aaaaaaaaaand 4chan is back! And more fun than ever (NSFW) with special Moot-edition wallpaper.

ajeffries [at] observer.com | @adrjeffries