Over the weekend, the websites belonging to the Toronto Police Service, the Ottawa Police, the Canadian Parliament, the Supreme Court, and the City of Ottawa were all hit with distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks by a hacker group that goes by the name Aerith.
According to a press release published by Aerith earlier today, these attacks are meant to call attention to the arrest of a teenage boy in Ottawa, who was charged with 60 criminal acts after being accused of fabricating emergencies to get the attention of authorities (otherwise known as swatting). Aerith claims the Ottawa Police have the wrong guy.
Reached by VICE earlier today, Aerith told us they will be posting their proof of the boy's innocence "shortly." In a particularly bizarre twist, the father of the accused, whose identity is being protected under a publication ban in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice act, read a statement on Aerith's behalf, to deliver a stern warning to the cops:
"We will not rest, we will not stop until police admit their mistake, and drop all the charges against this innocent youth."
Aerith's own press release hints at what kind of information they claim to possess, which they insist would prove the accused swatter is innocent: "The FBI sent a case file to ottawa police and said something along the lines of "arrest him" and that's exactly what they did, without doing a proper investigation. The basis for arrest? A IP address. The police say that IP addresses cannot be faked, when infact, they can be faked, it's child's play. Anyone with a few minutes spare time can GOOGLE it and find out how to fake your IP address."
To further complicate things, a Twitter account, @ProbablyOnion2, which is believed to belong to the individual who had committed the swatting acts that led to the arrest of a teenager, was also hacked by Aerith, who left the following message in ProbablyOnion2's feed:
Aerith told us they believe this account belongs to the person who framed the accused teenager, who they insist is innocent.
The hacker group also told VICE that their attacks against Canadian government websites won't stop "until charges are cleared." They also indicated that they are helping the boy's father because he's "a nice guy" and "we are helping clear his sons name."
At press time, the Ottawa Police's website was still offline. Reached for comment, the Ottawa Police were not able to comment on the specifics of the swatting case, though a tweet from the @OttawaPolice account assured its audience the attack from Aerith on its systems was only skin-deep: "We are working to resolve the [sic] sevice issues affecting ottawapolice.ca. Our systems remain secure."
Aerith, conversely, has claimed that they obtained the email logs of the Ottawa Police force. VICE cannot verify this claim. Aerith is also targeting one specific constable, the one who arrested the accused swatter, who they claim has been involved in wrongful arrest incidents before.
Regardless, for the time being we will just have to wait and see if these attacks continue and whether there will be a document dump to substantiate Aerith's claims. While this string of DDOS attacks has certainly caught the attention of the Canadian authorities they have targeted, and most of the mainstream media as a result, Aerith's claims are grandiose, and to back them up will require some serious proof.
Update 11:43 AM: Aerith has confirmed that they are in fact a hacker group and not an individual. They also claim the @ProbablyOnion2 account belongs to the individual who framed the teen accused of swatting, and not the teen himself.