STEUBENVILLE - An international hacker group targeted a privately run website relating to Steubenville High School athletics Sunday, hacking into the site and temporarily taking it over with a message relating to the rape trial of two area youths.
Anonymous, a loosely knit Internet hacking group, took over the site www.rollredroll.com Sunday evening and Monday morning to protest what the group alleges is a cover-up regarding the upcoming trial of Trent Mays, 16, of Bloomingdale and Malik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville, Big Red student-athletes.
Anonymous claimed in two separate YouTube videos, also posted Monday, the alleged rape was perpetuated by more people than have been charged. The videos were taken off YouTube by late Monday morning, but while they were posted they showed alleged photos of the victim the night of the alleged incident as well as tweets taken from www.twitter.com from those Anonymous claimed were involved.
The videos, which began with the unofficial logo of Anonymous and featured an individual in a Guy Fawkes mask with an electronically altered voice, named the uncharged individuals they claim also were involved.
Additionally in the videos, Anonymous threatened to release Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers and personal information about those it claimed were involved in the alleged incident.
Only the two students have been so far charged in connection with the alleged rape of a teenage girl Aug. 11-12. Their trial before visiting Judge Tom Lipps is set to begin Feb. 13.
Jim Parks, owner and webmaster of Rollredroll.com, said Monday afternoon the site isn't connected to Steubenville City Schools in any way.
He speculated the attack was spurred by a lengthy New York Times story on the incident published Dec. 16 in the newspaper and posted on the Times' website. Parks said he believes Anonymous assumed his website was affiliated with the school.
"I don't know why they targeted me," said Parks, adding the site has been online in its current form since 1998. "They probably thought it was (the school's site), but it's not. I don't even know any of the (Big Red) football players. I know the superintendent (Mike McVey) and a few coaches, but that's it. All of the information (on the site) has been there since 1998."
The site typically posts information on Steubenville High School sports, including statistics, photos and schedules of various sporting events. Parks said Anonymous basically took over the website's home page through its central server site in Texas.
"They figured out the password and changed all the (home page information)," Parks said.
While taken over, the website's home page featured a message from Anonymous as well as a link to a video from an individual calling himself Knightsec. The message ends with, "We ask the proper authorities do not allow the cover up of this potential criminal ring, and the victims do not go unprotected."
They also made accusations against Parks in the message that he called "ridiculous."
"They made all these wild accusations, hoping something will stick," said Parks. "Then they try to intimidate people."
Parks said he contacted the site's carrier and initially had some some difficulty convincing the company he was the site's owner and webmaster. He added some might still be able to access the page if their web browser hasn't been cleared or they can find a cached copy of the page on the Internet.
Anonymous reportedly began in 2003 among a group of "hacktivists" and gained a broader profile several years ago with a cyber attack on the religion Scientology and its affiliated sites. Since then the group has targeted websites of different countries, international banks, formed an alliance with the Occupy movement and most recently attacked and hacked into the website for the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas because church members threatened to protest at funerals for victims of the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., school shootings.
The Guy Fawkes mask worn by members is borrowed from the 2005 movie "V For Vendetta," in which a man trying to lead a future uprising against a fascist British government dons the mask and ultimately leads a revolution. Some individuals associated with Anonymous have been arrested in several countries in the past five years for hacking activities, but the group has no formal structure.
The Times article and Anonymous attacks also have celebrities commenting on the incident, with actress and comedian Roseanne Barr early Monday morning tweeting that "Steubenville Ohio's filthy authority figures need to stop protecting rapist athletes."
This is the second incident of individuals on the Internet getting involved in the peripherals of the trial.
In October the family of a Steubenville High School student filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court against the the operator of an Internet blog site that claimed their son has been defamed in connection with a rape investigation.