Hackers strike over cybersecurity bill

The hacker group Anonymous on Monday crashed the websites of two trade associations that support a House cybersecurity bill. 

The self-proclaimed “hacktivist” group claimed credit in a YouTube post after the websites for telephone association USTelecom and technology group TechAmerica were brought down by denial-of-service attacks. Such attacks typically flood networks with excessive requests, often by using remotely hijacked networks known as “botnets."

USTelecom CEO Walter McCormick Jr. blasted Anonymous for trying to "coerce, intimidate and stifle speech."

"Ironically, by their actions Anonymous hacktivists underscore the importance of speedy action on the bipartisan Rogers-Ruppersberger legislation to ensure that the Internet remains an open and safe forum for all," McCormick said in a statement.  

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (CISPA), sponsored by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), has recently caught the attention of online activists, who are comparing it to the now-shelved Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

Lawmakers say the goal of CISPA is to help companies beef up their defenses against hackers who steal business secrets, rob customer financial information and wreak havoc on computer systems. The bill would tear down legal barriers that discourage companies from sharing information about cyberattacks.

But privacy advocates warn the legislation could lead companies to share private user information with federal spy agencies.

TechAmerica represents some of the companies that played a central role in defeating SOPA earlier this year, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft. In a statement, the group defended its support for the cybersecurity bill and vowed to continue lobbying for its passage. 

“We believe the voice of the Internet community is critical to all policy discussions but the conversations need to be based on accurate information. We have thoroughly vetted this bill and see it as an important tool in combating cyber-attacks, like the one we are experiencing," TechAmerica CEO Shawn Osborne said. 

"These types of strong-arm tactics have no place in the critical discussions our country needs to be having about our cybersecurity, they just underscore the importance of them."

The House is expected to vote on the cybersecurity measure on the week of April 23. 

— This story was first posted at 2:00 p.m. and has been updated.