Westboro Baptist Church Tangles with Anonymous

Westboro Baptist Church faked a letter threatening a DDoS attack, according to people associated with Anonymous.

The controversial Westboro Baptist Church is in the middle of a row with Anonymous.

The Westboro Baptist Church, of Topeka, Kan., has claimed it is being targeted by Anonymous-something some involved in Anonymous say is false. Known for its virulent anti-homosexual stance, Westboro Baptist Church claims Anonymous threatened in a letter posted on AnonNews.org to hack the church's site if it did not stop its activities. However, in a message posted on AnonNews.org Feb. 20, Anonymous affiliates accused the church itself of posting the letter on AnonNews.

"You thought you could play with Anonymous," according to the message. "You observed our rising notoriety and thought you would exploit our paradigm for your own gain. ... While Anonymous thanks you for your interest, and would certainly like to take a break and have some fun with you guys, we have more pressing matters to deal with at the moment. But, we will keep this application on file, and will certainly contact you if any openings become available in future."

The message goes on to state that just because something is posted on AnonNews.org does not mean all members are in agreement with it, or, in the case of the supposed letter, even "a single Anon is in agreement." It also warns fellow "Anons" that the situation is a trap.

"They've got their ports wide open to harvest IPs to sue," according to the message. "Don't DDoS, and boycott Operation Westboro."

In response to the initial letter, the church told its opponents to "bring it." During the past few days, a number of messages on the issue have appeared on AnonNews, including a few instructing people not to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against the church's Website. DDoS attack or no, however, the church's site is currently down (as of 3:40 p.m. EST), though it was back online briefly.

"What's interesting is that there may be some affiliated with Anonymous who don't agree that targeting the Westboro Baptist Church is an appropriate use of their time and resources," blogged Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

"As with all things Anonymous, it's hard to tell who's who," he continued. "The group is headless, and has no structure. Anyone can speak and claim to be representing the group."

Westboro Baptist was recently in the news in January when members announced they planned to travel to Tucson, Ariz., in the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The church, which is known for picketing military funerals with signs reading "God hates fags" to draw attention to its stance on homosexuality, announced plans to protest at the funerals of those killed in the incident.

The fallout caused state lawmakers to pass emergency legislation banning protesters from being within 300 feet of a funeral.