For Canadians, July 1 is Canada Day—but to Anonymous, it’s also the perfect occasion to launch a protest campaign of distributed denial of service (DDos) attacks.
The internet activist group announced on Wednesday morning that it had planned #AntiCanadaDay protests in support of its #OpCyberPrivacy campaign, created in opposition to Canada’s controversial, recently-passed anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51.
The bill grants the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) broad powers—with judicial authoriziation—to do just about anything to “disrupt” and investigate terrorist plots and propaganda, both online and offline.
“We protest against the systemic invasion of privacy by government and corperate [sic] entities around the world,” the announcement reads. “We stand ardent in our defiance to all those who would take away our rights and freedoms.”
A full list of targets, posted shortly before the #AntiCanadaDay attacks began, lists the websites of Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau, Minister of Justice Peter McKay, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and the Canadian Senate as “main targets.”
A host of other lobbyist groups and senators who voted in favour of Bill C-51 are listed as targets too.
“All Canadian government web assests [sic] are fair game,” read the statement. “Lazors free on all federal, provincial and municpal [sic] services.”
Shortly after noon, accounts on Twitter associated with the campaign reported that multiple government of Canada websites had been taken offline. When Motherboard attempted to access sites such as Canada.ca and sencanada.ca, for example, pages either loaded slowly, displayed an error, or did not load at all.
“Remember hold nothing down for protracted lengths,” said an operation admin in the group’s chat room. “This is after all just a protest.”
In a separate chat room interview, members told VICE News reporter Hilary Beaumont that eight people belong to the core #OpCyberPrivacy team. “We all expect blowback for today,” wrote one of the users, but said that it was worth the risk.
“This bill violates the charter of rights and freedoms, universal declaration of human rights,” a user said, citing the threat of more invasive spying offline, and the potential to be arrested without a warrant and held without charge.
“They make the rules up as they go,” wrote another member. “So if I’m a perfectly law abiding citizen who is impacted greatly by something and I protest I can be arrested [because] criticizing that is terrorism.”
By early afternoon, focus had shifted to sites such as the Canadian parliament domain parl.gc.ca, and Conservative party Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s domain pm.gc.ca. The admin said the government was “putting up a good fight.”
“They are adding load balancers, moving servers, closing off access,” wrote another user. “Some of the pages up [at the moment] are only cached versions.”
The protest is expected to continue until midnight.