Thirty Meter Telescope website falls over in hacktivist DDoS attack

Hacktivists have launched a distributed denial-of-service attack against the website of TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope), which is planned to be the Northern hemisphere’s largest, most advanced optical telescope.

For at least two hours yesterday, the TMT website at was inaccessible to internet users.

TMT website down

Sandra Dawson, a spokesperson for the TMT project, confirmed to the Associated Press that the site had come under attack:

“TMT today was the victim of an unscrupulous denial of service attack, apparently launched by Anonymous. The incident is being investigated.”

You might think that a website about a telescope is a strange target for hackers wielding the blunt weapon of a DDoS attack, who might typically be more interested in attacking government websites for political reasons or taking down an unpopular multinational corporation.

Why would hackers want to launch such a disruptive attack against a telescope website? Surely the only people who don’t like telescopes are the aliens in outer space who might be having their laundry peeped at from Earth?

It turns out there’s a simple reason why the Thirty Meter Telescope is stirring emotions so strongly: it hasn’t been built yet.

The construction of the proposed TMT is controversial because it is planned to be be constructed on Mauna Kea, a dormant 13,796 foot-high volcano in Hawaii. This has incurred the wrath of environmentalists and native Hawaiians who consider the land to be sacred.

There has been considerable opposition to the building of the telescope on Mauna Kea, as this news report from last year makes clear.

Now it appears the protest about TMT has spilt over onto the internet in the form of a denial-of-service attack.

Operation Green Rights, an Anonymous-affiliated group which also campaigns against controversial corporations such as Monsanto, claimed on its Twitter account and website that it was responsible for the DDoS attack.

The hacktivists additionally claimed credit for taking down Aloha State’s official website.

Hawaii government website down

It is clear that denial-of-service attacks are being deployed more and more, as perpetrators attempt to use the anonymity of the internet to hide their identity and stage the digital version of a “sit down protest” or blockade to disrupt organisations.

Tempting as it may be to participate in a DDoS attack, it’s important that everyone remembers that if the authorities determine you were involved you can end up going to jail as a result. Peaceful, law-abiding protests are always preferable.