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Anonymous Claims Responsibility for Atlanta PD Website Outage

The mysterious hacktivist group has claimed responsibility for the weekend outage of the city's police department website, saying that it was revenge for the recent killing of Rayshard Brooks.

Anonymous Screenshot - YouTube
For the second time in two weeks the hacker group Anonymous has expressed solidarity with the protest movements roiling the country by targeting a U.S. police department — this time taking aim at Atlanta police.

The Atlanta Police Department's website became temporarily unavailable Sunday, losing connectivity at approximately 8:30 a.m. until around 11:30 a.m., according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The incident occurred roughly a day after police shot and killed an African American man, Rayshard Brooks, during a struggle at a local fast food restaurant Friday night. The killing has spawned localized protests against police brutality.

Anonymous claimed responsibility for the apparent cyberattack on APD in a tweet Sunday morning.

Anonymous has taken action against Atlanta PD for the execution of #RayshardBrooks, we call for the arrest of the two murderers. No more impunity. #BlackLivesMatter #AtlantaShooting #AtlantaProtests — Anonymous (@YourAnonCentral) June 14, 2020
The decentralized "hacktivist" group, which also recently took responsibility for an attack on the Minneapolis Police Department, made a name for itself by targeting what it deems oppressive institutions all around the world. It has also taken aim at terrorist groups, like the Islamic State.

Herb Lin, senior research scholar at Stanford University, said that Anonymous — true to its moniker — is a hard group to pin down. While they do not operate like traditional cybermercenaries, there's no telling what the group's origins are or who is involved.

"It could be state-sponsored, or criminal, or individual activists, or hackers out for a good time or any combination of these," said Lin. "I believe anyone can buy a Guy Fawkes mask on Amazon for about $15 and claim to be a part of Anonymous."

The recent targeting of police departments is a little different than their traditional efforts, said Lin, but it is in many ways consistent with their overall, self-expressed goals.

"One fairly common thread is that they tend to embody uncompromising principles/ideals of Internet libertarianism — anti-censorship, anti-copyright, anti-authoritarianism, and so on," he said. "Their efforts against the Minneapolis police department are a bit of an exception in that there was no overt 'cyber' dimension to George Floyd’s murder, but those efforts are broadly consistent with an anti-authoritarian ethos."

The APD could not be reached for comment about the incident. 

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.