A Brief History of Anonymous Hacktivism
We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.
Long before they became vigilantes in the Wikileaks cyberwars, Anonymous was conducting large-scale “raids” against their enemies. In hilariously-titled Operation: Titstorm earlier this year, they took on the Australian Gov’t over net censorship. Here’s a poster from the raid:
They succeeded in briefly shutting down a few AU gov’t sites. More to their point, I believe, is that attention was drawn to the issue. All the big outlets covered the story.
One participant was quoted as saying, “No government should have the right to refuse its citizens access to information solely because they perceive it to be unwanted”. Another quipped, “The Australian government will learn that one does not mess with our porn.”
One issue raised with the censorship was its vagueness. For example, it banned films featuring small-breasted adult women who could be “confused” with minors. This message was posted to Youtube as part of Operation: Titstorm:
Hello, Prime Minister Rudd, Governor-General Bryce, and members of the Australian Parliament. We are Anonymous. Over the past several months, we have observed the actions of your government in regard to censorship of internet content in Australia.
Your ban of pornography depicting small breasted women is not only discrimination against people based on physical characteristics, but also a first step down the slippery slope of internet censorship. Your proposed implementation of mandatory ISP filtering is an outrage, and Anonymous cannot allow this to happen. If there is any foreseeable threat to our organization, it is internet censorship. Therefore, we take your actions very seriously.
We shall proceed to do everything in our power to annihilate your government’s presence on the internet.
You have nowhere to hide, because we are everywhere.
We are Anonymous.
We are legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Anon’s standard arsenal of tools was deployed: DDOS attacks, faxing black pages en masse, flooding email servers with junk, and running scripts to autoclick ads (advertisers then balk/walk).
Encyclopedia Dramatica has more on Operation: Titstorm here, for those interested.
Iranian Activist Support
As Wired reported in June 2009, Anonymous teamed up with Pirate Bay to offer Iranian dissidents a way to plan demonstrations and connect with the outside world. The result was Anonymous Iran, a successful information-freedom project with 22k+ users.
The site offers Iranian activists tools and advice on how to remain anonymous and avoid detection. Forums are provided for coordinating activities and communicating with the west. I would assume that are employed in all aspects of the site.
Who are they?
Anonymous isn’t truly an organization; not in any traditional sense. They are a large, decentralized group of individuals who share common interests and web haunts. Among those commonalities are frustration with the status quo and a taste for Japanese anime.
They coordinate raids on forums like 4chan.org and ICQ chat rooms, among other venues. 4chan.org is a major hub, but I wouldn’t call it Anonymous’ home. Anonops.net was as close to an HQ as they had, but it has been shut down.
This mission statement, pulled from Google’s cache, indicates that anonops.net was, according to some, Anon’s “homepage”.
We are an anonymous, decentralized movement which fights against censorship and copywrong. This is our homepage. Please look around and/or join the discussion in our chat.
Here’s an example of forum activity before the site went down (from Google’s cache, screenshot). In a thread titled “Target Suggestions”, the following was posted:
Add your suggestions below the line: www.alvarouribevelez.com Paypal’s main site needs to be hit hard. With shopping coming up and people needing to pay for their online purchases, this will really put them at a halt and regret messing with Wikileaks and Anon.”
No idea what the reference to Alvara Uribe means. Coded message, maybe.
Whyweprotest.net, a spinoff, offers more insight on the group:
Recent developments regarding WikiLeaks and the corporate and political control of information have led to increased interest and participation in WhyWeProtest.net. We are inspired by this influx of energy and creativity. We invite all of our increasingly diverse users to collaborate with us toward real and substantive change on a widening range of issues.
Anonymous is not an organization. There are no official members, guidelines, leaders, representatives or unifying principles. Rather, Anonymous is a word that identifies the millions of people, groups, and individuals on and off of the internet who, without disclosing their identities, express diverse opinions on many topics.
As an offshoot of the larger Anonymous group, WhyWeProtest (WWP) has become the hub of the anti-Scientology movement that is often called Project Chanology. We have also initiated planning and discussion in other pro-free speech areas. Our role has been to provide a stable platform to discuss legal methods of protest and information dissemination. We take no position on other forms of civil disobedience, although from both a public relations and a technical point of view we cannot host the planning or promotion of illegal activities.
Scientology, AT&T, and other targets past
Anon’s first widely-noted raid was conducted against Scientology in 2008. It was dubbed Project Chanology (chan = 4chan.org, presumably). Video message Anon sent to Scientology.
Jeff Jacobsen has a nice writeup of the episode here. Anon’s message to Scientology:
Over the years, we have been watching you. Your campaigns of misinformation; suppression of dissent; your litigious nature, all of these things have caught our eye. With the leakage of your latest propaganda video into mainstream circulation, the extent of your malign influence over those who trust you, who call you leader, has been made clear to us. Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed.
Jeff Jacobsen has a nice writeup of the episode here.
A new spinoff movement has launched, as well. In Operation Leakspin, volunteers are crawling through leaked material, looking for stories others missed. Crowdjournalism is the tag line, not bad.
I suspect they will find some interesting stuff. Remember, it has primarily been journalists crawling through Wikileaks data so far. Anonymous is full of young programmers who will use their technical prowess to scour the data.
It will be interesting to watch the events unfold. Arrests have already begun, as a 16-year old Dutch boy was arrested in connection with Anon’s Mastercard attacks. Shortly after the arrest, the Dutch prosecutor’s site was hacked… Almost ashamed to admit how much I enjoy watching these events unfold. It is truly fascinating.
Further reading on Anon raids etc:
- EasyDNS helps Wikileaks, after being accused of dropping it – NY Times
- The first global cyber war has begun, claim hackers – Guardian
- Information is the antidote to fear – EFF
- Gawker, Gizmodo, Lifehacker hacked – Village Voice
- Amazon UK Goes offline amid hacking attempts – Guardian
- Anonymous on Wikipedia – Wiki
- Operation: Black Rage – play-this.org
- What the hell is 4chan? – Gawker
- Is 4chan turning into internet good guys? – Gawker