Did Anonymous actually cause the Superdome blackout during Super Bowl XLVII?
February 3rd 2013 – Super Bowl XLVII dubbed the, “Harbaugh Bowl” by football analysts as it featured brothers as head coaches on opposite sidelines. But the game itself would be remembered for something stranger.
The Baltimore Ravens were taking on the San Francisco 49ers – The Ravens led by a stoic, dead aim starter, Joe Flacco. The niners were quarterbacked by Flacco’s complete anthesis. A big, physical and mobile QB in Colin Kaepernick (hey remember that guy?) But that’s not why the game would be remembered either.
Essentially, for you non American football buffs out there – after kickoff the Ravens started pounding the shit out of the 49ers. I remember distinctly because I was rooting for San Francisco and at a Super Bowl Party, myself – by the second quarter I was barely paying attention to the game, chalking it up as a lost cause as it went into halftime. Grabbing another drink and settling down to watch Beyoncé lip sync through whatever they call halftime shows these days.
After a seemingly twelve minute rendition of, “Single Ladies” Beyoncé disappeared into a Pepsi Can space shuttle and zoomed away and the game was set to resume. The Ravens continued their dismantling of San Francisco when they returned the halftime kick for a touchdown. New Orleans native, Jacoby Jones returning the kick for a 108 yard touchdown to put the Ravens up 28-6. But his hometown heroics would soon be overshadowed….by complete shadow.
The power went off in the stadium hosting possibly the largest sporting event in the world.
In an excellent article written by Sports Illustrated they detail the events that led up to and followed the Black out (I will post the link below). At first – terrorism was immediately considered and quickly ruled out. But just weeks before the game New Orleans officials had all of the Superdome’s switch gears upgraded and replaced to triply make sure the stadium could handle the event’s power load. Investigators at first were at a loss.
At the time the hacker group collective, Anonymous was all over the news for just about everything. Mainstream media couldn’t get enough of the high profile hacktivists. Were they revolutionaries? Anarchists? Terrorists? Just kids and trolls? How dangerous they seemed, like many things in America, was solely determined by what news channel was talking about the collective.
2013 was also a pretty busy year for the group – with some admirable internet vigilantism in small cases (Steubenville Rape Case, Nigerian Anti-Gay Law hacks) and some spectacular failures in larger operations such as OPIsrael. Israeli cyber security experts would later state that the hackers lacked the sophistication to do any real damage. (Israel is also arguably the Infosec capital of the world) Anonymous also launched a larger operation waging cyber war on North Korea which they claimed to have stolen military documents and DPRK passwords but never delivered and then a loose threat to hack the NSA (good fucking luck.)
So it was only natural that once such a weird event at the worlds largest sporting event took place the news sources would be looking for equally abnormal causes. Anonymous was that bizarre cause and (questionable?) parts of the organization was more than happy to oblige.
The Twitter handle, @rustleleague at the time was posing as being affiliated with Anonymous made claims that Anonymous were behind the attacks. They cited FEMA’s absolute failures to protect and help the people of New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. A failure at every single level of government from the top down. They certainly weren’t wrong about that BUT it would later come out that @RustleLeague was more just a band of trolls looking to stir the pot and if anything were considered more of a rival hacker group to Anonymous than partners.
So was Anonymous actually behind the power outage or not? Short answer No. Long answer Probably not. But it’s impossible to *COMPLETELY* rule out any sort of hacking group. After all, industrial operation system attacks have been on the rise in the past ten years and can be absolutely devastating to all types of power grids and machinery. (see: Stuxnet).
The official story after the fact was the company that “upgraded” the cables, switch gear and feeds into the Superdome to be able to handle the extra amperage load basically fucked it all up and didn’t update the relay’s amp capacity. A lot of electronic jargon for human error. Simply put, somebody got fired. Hard. The company that provided those services was Entergy who have declined like four billion interviews.
So maybe that is what happened. A guy that worked for an energy company that doesn’t know how to spell energy made a mistake and gave a good city another unwarranted reminder of how quickly disaster can strike. Or maybe it was someone or something else – with the click of a mouse button.
If any members of Anonymous or any hacking collectives do actually read this blog I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to email me or contact me via social media.
An excellent article on the debacle covered by Sports Illustrated
Cover photo from Anonhq.com
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