The protests reflect nationwide anger following the death of Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes. Sometimes-violent clashes with police have led to thousands of arrests. Even corporate America has spoken out on systemic injustice and police violence.
But, a smaller-scale debate is simmering over cybersecurity issues. In the early days of protests after Floyd’s death, Minneapolis city government systems were temporarily brought down by a cyber attack, as The Hill reports. A similar attack also reportedly hit state computer networks, to less effect.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz called the denial of service attack on state computers “very sophisticated” and “not somebody sitting in their basement.”
Cybersecurity pros note that denial of service attacks by their very nature do not demand much expertise because they involve brute force, simply barraging computers or websites with online traffic. Robert Graham, owner of the cybersecurity firm Errata Security, tells The Washington Post that such attacks are “extraordinarily unsophisticated.”
Minnesota’s Chief Information Officer Tarek Tomes told Minnesota Public Radio that the state experiences such attacks on a monthly basis—and more are likely on the way.
Speculation swirled about a possible hacking of the Minneapolis police website by online activist group Anonymous. As Variety reports, a Facebook page claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous posted a video warning Minneapolis police that it “will be exposing your many crimes to the world.” But Troy Hunt, who runs the data breach-tracking website Have I Been Pwned, writes that the alleged Anonymous breach appears to be “fake.”
As Daily Dot notes, there have even been claims, so far unsupported by evidence, that Anonymous hacked Chicago police airwaves to play rap group N.W.A.’s 1988 protest song “F*** tha Police.”
Denial of service attacks against local agencies also came in 2014 in Ferguson, Mo., after the police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown, and in 2015 in Baltimore, following the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, also a black man.