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Fanfic writers targeted by Anonymous Sudan in apparent DDoS attack on Ao3

Popular fan fiction repository Archive of Our Own (Ao3) has reported that it is under sustained distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack from a group of “religiously and politically motivated” hackers.

user icon David Hollingworth
Tue, 11 Jul 2023
Fanfic writers targeted by Anonymous Sudan in apparent DDoS attack on Ao3
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At the same time, Anonymous Sudan has claimed responsibility for the attack on its Telegram channel, claiming that the attack will continue for at least 24 hours.

The reasons for the attack on the Ao3 are two-fold, it seems.

“It’s part of our campaign targeting companies registered in the United States,” the group said in a post on Telegram, suggesting that in the first instance, it’s just part of Anonymous Sudan’s broader targeting of American companies and organisations.

However, there’s another motivating factor in the attack.

“... we are against all forms of degeneracy, and the site is full of disgusting smuts and other LGBTQ+ and NSFW things,” the post added.

Anonymous Sudan’s most recent post, from the morning of 11 July, is actually a ransom demand.

“You have exactly 24 hours from the time of the posting of this offer to fill up this bitcoin wallet with 30,000 US dollars,” Anonymous Sudan said.

“If it gets filled up before the 24-hour time frame, we promise to halt all DDoS attacks immediately and never attack this site again. Otherwise, we will keep it down for weeks as we have done with other companies before. You can research our history.”

As of writing, the Ao3 website is returning intermittent 503 Service Unavailable errors, but Ao3’s volunteer admins are apparently on the case.

“We apologise for any distress caused, and we’ll do our best to be back soon!” A03 wrote on Twitter. “As we’re running on volunteer power, we can’t always act on server hiccups as quickly as we’d like. Thank you for your patience!”

Archive of Our Own — usually shortened to Ao3 — is a non-profit online repository for amateur fiction, usually inspired by popular books, TV series, and films. While many of the stories explore relatively straightforward “what if?” scenarios, many also explore what is known as slash fiction — stories that explore more romantic relationships between fictional characters.

Ao3 hosts over 11 million works of fiction ranging from short stories to full-length novels and over 5 million users. The site won a Hugo Award in 2019.

Anonymous Sudan seems to have been on a tear in the last few days, targeting Reddit, Tumblr, and a video game publisher with similar DDoS attacks.

“Any American company can be targeted, it doesn’t matter who and which company it is, if it’s American we will target it,” the group said in a Telegram post on 9 July.

For all its religious rhetoric and iconography, Anonymous Sudan is very likely a pro-Russian group not at all linked to its namesake country. Security firm CyberCX is confident the group is simply operating under a false name to obfuscate its real motives.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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