The rise of the digital global insurrection
Chapter 1: What is Hacker/where did they come from?
I will be looking at the rise of global anti-establishment hackers that have stricken fear and panic in government agencies, security firms and web site owners since their debut in the early 2000’s. I will be looking at where hackers came from, what a hacker is and what a hacker does. I will be exploring the history of the art of exploration as well as the effects hackers have had on Geo-politics and revolutionary uprisings. I will be looking at the contrast of how the media looks at hacking and hacking crimes compared to the ethics hackers hold as well as the actions that follow their aftermath. I will be focusing on the global collective only known as Anonymous and the behaviour of it and its various off shoots. The purpose of this dissertation is to create a bridge of communication between the hacking collective and the academic community.
This field of study is at the forefront of discussion within various bodies involved in the online communities across the globe. There are plenty of advocates within the Internet community and various journalists praising the hacker groups acting currently; and just as many governments and security companies hunting hackers down. Some of these include worldwide web superstars such as Kim dot Kom, Julien Assange, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and Ed Pilkington to Ted talkers Keren Elazari and Logan LaPlante. However, on the reverse side of the coin we have government bodies like the NSA & FBI as well as Scotland yard who have many of these same hackers on there most wanted list.
It currently stands that an estimated 2 billion people on this planet currently use and have access to the internet. We live in a digital age where data and personal information such as Credit/Debit card information, family photos, house addresses or even your favorite songs are stored online and are often unprotected. We also live in an age where privacy can be bought and is a privilege for some but not for others. I would like to put forward the argument that there must be transparency on both sides so open dialogue can happen in order that misinformation is not created. I feel personally that the term ‘hacker’ is often misunderstood. A perfect example that highlights this point is the perception of the works of Tom Chance and how he depicts hackers in comparison to how the BBC, Daily Mail, CNN and Fox News portray hacking.
Hacking in its basic form can be described as the art of exploration and problem solving. A hacker is someone who uses technology or programming to their own or somebody else’s advantage. The term is often debated as the media use it negatively by labeling hackers criminals who break into computers. In contrast, Eric Raymond, compiler of The New Hacker’s Dictionary, is against the term being used to describe people who break into other people’s systems for criminal gain. Raymond instead refers to hackers as those who are absorbed by programming, whether theorizing about it or practicing it. The term within the hacking community used to describe breaking into a system is often referred to as ‘Cracking’. When searching the media links to the word hacker or hacking, it is the clear that the definition has been twisted to a more sinister meaning and is often being used to refer to cracking into systems. It would appear that the word hacker has been heavily demonized by the mainstream outlets. An example of this occurred in 2013 when the Daily Mail released an article on their website entitled “BBC takes three days to regain control of a computer server after Russian hacker breaks in and tries to sell access to other cyber-criminals”. The article follows a story of when the BBC servers were compromised and allegedly sold to “cyber-criminals”. In the opening few lines and sensationalised headline the Daily Mail portrays the event as online criminals selling servers and data bases on the online black markets.
To those in the public who did not bother to read the entirety of the article and simply skimmed the headlines, the Mail online had already convinced them that what happened was criminal theft. However, as you scroll and actually read the article, we are told that it is not known whether the hacker stole data or caused any damage during the attack and the majority of the story is pure speculation. I often compare this mentality to the moral panic theory where fabrication and misinformation lead to heavy criticism of a culture which is simply misunderstood. The same is happening currently as we now enter 2015 with the media portrayal of the Xbox and Playstation network attacks with headlines such as “Xbox live and Playstation attack: Christmas ruined for millions” (The Guardian 26th December 2014 ), “Is this the man who ruined Christmas? ‘Hacker’” (The Daily Mail 27th December 2014) and “Hackers Ruin Christmas Gaming Fun By Taking Down Sony And Microsoft Servers” (hellou.co.uk 25th of December 2014)
From my research into this topic I feel that this over the top sensationalism has targeted an entire culture and labeled the hacking community as common criminals rather than innovative body of people who utilize technology to their own advantage. The persecution of hackers has been happening for as long as there has been hacks. The most infamous retort from the hacking community was in 1986 and was penned by Lloyd Blankenship who used the pseudonym ++Mentor++. He released it shortly after his arrest by the FBI for his affiliation with the hacking groups: Extasyy Elite and Legion of Doom.
“ Another one got caught today, it’s all over the papers. “Teenager
Arrested in Computer Crime Scandal”, “Hacker Arrested after Bank Tampering”…
Damn kids. They’re all alike.
But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950’s technobrain,
ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what
made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him?
I am a hacker, enter my world…
Mine is a world that begins with school… I’m smarter than most of
the other kids, this crap they teach us bores me…
Damn underachiever. They’re all alike.
I’m in junior high or high school. I’ve listened to teachers explain
for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. “No, Ms.
Smith, I didn’t show my work. I did it in my head…”
Damn kid. Probably copied it. They’re all alike.
I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is
cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it’s because I
screwed it up. Not because it doesn’t like me…
Or feels threatened by me…
Or thinks I’m a smart ass…
Or doesn’t like teaching and shouldn’t be here…
Damn kid. All he does is play games. They’re all alike.
And then it happened… a door opened to a world… rushing through
the phone line like heroin through an addict’s veins, an electronic pulse is
sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought… a board is
“This is it… this is where I belong…”
I know everyone here… even if I’ve never met them, never talked to
them, may never hear from them again… I know you all…
Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They’re all alike…
You bet your ass we’re all alike… we’ve been spoon-fed baby food at
school when we hungered for steak… the bits of meat that you did let slip
through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We’ve been dominated by sadists, or
ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us will-
ing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.
This is our world now… the world of the electron and the switch, the
beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without paying
for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn’t run by profiteering gluttons, and
you call us criminals. We explore… and you call us criminals. We seek
after knowledge… and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color,
without nationality, without religious bias… and you call us criminals.
You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us
and try to make us believe it’s for our own good, yet we’re the criminals.
Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is
that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like.
My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me
I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual,
but you can’t stop us all… after all, we’re all alike.” (January 8 1986)
In Tom Chance’s dissertation ‘The Hacker Ethic and Meaningful Work’ he gives a definition of what a hacker is. He defines the word ‘hacker’ originating “in the computer labs of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the late 1950s amongst a group of programmers who believed that “all information should be free” and that “access to computers… should be unlimited and total” (Levy, 2001, p.40). Hackers now define themselves as “an expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example” (Raymond, 2003). One could work in a ‘hackerish’ way in any field of endeavour where universal access to, and sharing of, the tools of your trade would be positive and viable. Decades later the media began to apply the term to criminals using computers, but whom hackers referred to as ‘crackers’ (Raymond, 2003).” http://www.acrewoods.net/free-culture/the-hacker-ethic-and-meaningful-work Tom Chance (2005). The Hacker Ethic and Meaningful Work. Reading: University of Reading.
In the documentary ‘We are Legion: Story of the Hacktivist’ Steven Levy (Author of Hackers: Heroes of the computer revolution) agrees with Tom Chance but adds that the hackers came specifically from the tech model railroad club within MIT. Richard Thieme (Tech author and professional speaker) who also took part in the documentary further expands on origins within MIT explaining that hackers were originally pranksters, giving the example of students who placed a Volkswagen on top of the dome of the MIT building, or the students in the engineering department who measured the length of a bridge using one of their classmates. Thieme refers to the student being measured as “Brian”. Therefore ending up with a measurement of the bridge as being so many “Brians” long. Chance reflects on this notion when he states “It is important to note that when hackers talk about intrinsic motivation they almost always use adjectives like “fun”, “passionate”, “joyous” and “entertaining”.” (Chance 2005).
Chapter 2: Justification/ Why Hack ?
White Hat: (A Hacker that works for the government or is pro security)
Black Hat:(A Criminal Hacker or Anti security)
Grey Hat: ( A Hacker that pro security and breaks the law)
One of the answers to why someone would hack is simply for entertainment. It may be that the Hackers ‘fun’ will often come at the expense of breaking security or, as Thieme puts it “Humiliating the Man” (We are Legion: Story of the Hacktivist). It is therefore hardly surprising that this has the potential put them in a confrontational situation with already existing power structures such a corporations and political institutions and governments. Hackers are naturally anti-authoritarian. “Anyone who can give you orders can stop you from solving whatever problem you’re being fascinated by”. (Eric S. Raymond). This does not mean hackers are against power structures per se, but all hackers believe in freedom and desire their own control. It is due to this that hackers are often self-taught and although originally spawned from one of the greatest places of academia (MIT), they will not come from any specific educational background or have any formal training. What makes the hacker successful is his or her self-motivation, learning through experimentation and trial and error. What connects all definitions of the term is that the hackers’ biggest trait is self-determination and an unquestionable thirst for knowledge. Richard Stallman (software freedom activist and computer programmer) famously said “free as in free speech, not as in free beer.” This ideology of freedom is applicable in all of the hackers’ work – from the creating of free software to believing in the free flow of information.
Due to its anti-authoritarian ideology hackers are intrinsically political (whether they want to admit it or not). In 1996 a hacker known as Omega, who was a member of a hacking collective and self proclaimed DIY media organization rooted in Lubbock, Texas called the ‘Cult of the dead Cow’ (also known as CdC communications), coined the term Hacktivism. The website http://www.techtarget.com describes the term as “The act of hacking, or breaking into a computer system, for a politically or socially motivated purpose. The individual who performs an act of hacktivism is said to be a hacktivist.“ (June 2007). However, it could be stated that in a broader sense of the meaning of the word hacktivism is utilizing technology for direct action. This can be brought about either by creating social media pages to bring to people’s attention the issues surrounding human rights, or hacking a website in support of a specific political agenda. In these instances, hacktivism could be seen as an electronic push towards social change.
To have a better understanding of why hackers hack, I would like to look at some of the major players that have made up this culture over the past years. I would like to bring to the reader’s attention that there are many hacker coalitions in existence and out of these the most successful, if we can use that description, are probably unknown. The three examples I will be looking at in this chapter vary in goal, political Ideology and style of ‘hats’ but at the core fit the definition that I have put forward.
The first group I will look at is L0pht (pronounced “loft”) Heavy Industries, a hacker think tank that was active between 1992-2000. The company which was originally established in Boston consisted of seven members under the aliases of Brian Oblivion, Kingpin, Mudge, Space Rogue, Stefan Von Neumann, John Tan and Weld Pond. L0pht picked up on the many security flaws in corporations and businesses in the late nineties including Microsoft, IBM & Novell. On May 19th, 1998 the collective famously proclaimed to the United States Senate that between them they could shut down the internet and its infrastructure globally in less than 30 minutes. L0pht’s goal was to raise awareness of the security gaps within the digital framework of the internet. They believed in creating safe and protected use of technology. L0pht rose from the underground scene to become one of the community’s most renowned white hat hacking groups.
Moving onto the next group, I will be looking at a black hat group that went under the name of ‘Lizard squad’ and which in 2014 burst into the arena and began a campaign of denial of service attacks¹ against major video gaming communities. The group utilized social media, in particular twitter accounts to agitate video game users. Their first publicised target was the multi-player online battle arena PC game ‘League Of Legends’ (LoL). This game had been developed and published by American company Riot Games and currently has over 27 million users a day worldwide (Paul Tassi, contributor to www.forbes.com article dated 27/01/2014 entitled Riot’s ‘League of Legends’ Reveals Astonishing 27 Million Daily Players, 67 Million Monthly). The collective hit Riot servers in August 18 downing them and rendering the game unplayable for millions. ‘Lizard squad’ then broadened their attacks, continuing to make a name for themselves, and in December of the same year held video game console owners at ransom when they targeted Sony and Microsoft servers that were linked to Playstation Network and Xbox Live. The group hit both servers with the signature Ddos attack and threatened they would hit the networks on Christmas rendering many peoples Christmas presents utterly useless as well as threatening the profit margins of Sony and Microsoft who had just released a next generation of console that was in demand that Christmas. The on-line edition of the Daily Mail had as its headlines on December 25 “Please let us play! Thousands of Playstation and Xbox gamers who are STILL locked out of networks plead with hackers who ‘ruined’ Christmas to let them log onto games”. The most infamous member of the group simply known as ‘Jordie’ who communicated through the twitter handle @GDKJordie soon became the face of the group, antagonising and mocking gamers who were complaining about the down time for the on-line services. Jordie who and a tendency to use lewd and obscene language in his online comments often mocked the idea that people were paying for these services. Through their action and whether we could make the premise that it was intentional or not ‘Lizard squad’ raised the argument of corporations putting their profit margins before customer service i.e. charging subscriptions for on-line services that should arguably be included in the retail price of the game². This stance within the hacker community is often referred to as Anti-sec (abbreviation of Anti-security). However, what is behind these attacks is a very relevant issue that the corporations involved should be taking seriously, and that is that their cyber-security is not secure, in fact, it is often very insecure, thus allowing hacking groups to get into their systems and use it as a platform for their own agendas. If we refer back to Thieme and his previous definition in “Humiliating the Man”, we can see how this could be said to be the ultimate goal of ‘Lizard squad’ – not to deny gamers the opportunity of playing a new game but to embarrass Sony and Microsoft and make them look at the way they did business.
Out of the three hacking groups that we willl be looking at in this chapter, none have caught the media’s eye as much as the grey hat collective that was spawned in the beinging of 2000s and which is simply known as ‘Anonymous’. However, unlike the other hacking groups mentioned, ‘Anonymous’ does not soley describe itself as a hacker collective but rather titles itself as a resistant movement. PCMag gave the following description: “Anonymous is not the name of an organization. In fact, “organization” is the least appropriate word to describe the phenomenon that is Anonymous. It might be better to call Anonymous a movement, or a trend, or even a philosophy. However, the best way to describe Anonymous is as a group action, a spontaneous and unified activity performed by like-minded people with no specific starting point.” (Will Greenwald, http://www.pcmag.com, 2011).
The seeds of Anonymous can be found in a website called 4chan founded in 2003 by a 15 year old Web designer known as Chris moot (real name Christopher poole) who created a mirror site of 2chan which was an uncensored Japanese image board and called it 4chan. “Poole wanted a place to talk to people in English about anime , and 2chan had started blocking English posters. So he decided to clone 2chan by copying its publicly available HTML code, translating it to English” (P. Olson, ‘We Are Anonymous Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency’ pp27). Unlike many other forums 4chan allowed users to post without being a member and post anonymously (this is where the name Anonymous derived from ). It started out as anime focused due to the in increased interest in the genre by western fans but soon opened up to many diverse subcategories – from video games and politics to a whole category on the subject of origami. Over a period of years, 4chan became the home of many within the mysterious group known as ‘Anonymous’. While the group is often described by mainstream media simply as a “loose-knit group of computer hackers” (nbcNews, 2013, http://www.nbcnews. com/), ‘Anonymous’ defined itself as something much more. Part of this was thanks to Poole’s contribution to an unmonitored raw site that allowed a free flow of unmoderated messaging where conversation was allowed to flow freely. Starting off in /b/ a sub forum in 4chan, famous for its seedy underbelly and lewd imagery, ‘Anonymous’ at the time was nothing but random internet pranksters who specialized in online harassment and internet trolling, acting as Anti-sec hackers often for the LULZ ( a corruption of the anagram of ‘laugh out loud’ abbreviated to LoL that was coined on 4chan by posters).
Unlike the previous collectives mentioned, Anonymous does not have any official members but rather works as a hive mind of many voices who come under the umbrella of what has become known as Anonymous. Wired.co.uk, an online site, offering the latest news on technology, inlcuding blogs and podcasts, labels the group as “a nascent and small culture, but one with its own aesthetics and values, art and literature, social norms and ways of production, and even its own dialectic language.” Anonymous has no offial members nor spokesperson and has often refered to itself as ‘Legion’ – “We are Legion, we do not forgive, we do not forget, expect us” (Anonymous Motto) referencing the biblical demons mentioned in the new testement, The Gospel of Mark, 5:9, “And He (Jesus) asked him (the man), “What is thy name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion: for we are many.”” This definition was corroborated in an interview I was able to get with a self proclaimed partcipant from within the collective who goes under the handle ‘20% coooler’ who stated the following: “For me Anon is a beautiful idea. I like that fact that instead an individual working toward something or standing up for something the collective can support an idea or a wrong and expose it without fear of their safety or job. I love the different factions. I think each group synchronize so well together”. (Twitter Interview, 10th April 2015)
The group Anonymous made it’s debut in media headlines in 2008 (although one could argue this was not their begining but was rather the first time the public would read about them) when it kicked its way into the public spotlight with what was dubbed Operation Chanology (OpChanology), a protest movement started by the leaderless internet based movement against the practices of the church of scientology³. It started with a Youtube video circulating the internet, and grew into a world wide anti-establishment movement in which Anonymous still continues to disrupt the status quo to this day. On January 14th 2008 a video was produced by the church of scientology featuring ‘A’ list celebrity Tom Cruise which ended up on Youtube and many other video upload sites. The video portrayed the prominent church member Cruise rambling incoherently about the perks of his cult/religion stating that scientologists are the only people who can help after a car accident, and that scientologists are the only source of authority on getting addicts fight drug addiction. The video was viewed by millions as news of Cruise’s behaviour on screen spread around the internet, and was instantly memed⁴. On the 16th of that same month, the church began removing the Youtube videos from the internet through Youtubes Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and although people had to mirror the video and reupload it to other sites to counter this, they were still somehow being removed. To this day no one really knows how the videos were being DMCA(ed) so fast but those involved could only assume that the church of scientology had its lawyers in direct contact with these websites pressuring them to shut down any re-upload of the footage. The website wwww.gawker.com founded and owned by Nick Denton was one of the many sites that hosted Cruise’s video on their front page while this internet phenomenon took place and who were tageted by the church’s lawyers. Many existing critics of the church had come out and warned both members of Anonymous and others involved that the church was ruthless in its attacks against those who opposed its values. An example of this can be found when the church’s founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard famously quoted in a 1955 magazine entitled ‘The Scientologist, a Manual on the Dissemination of Material’ stated: “The purpose of a lawsuit is to harass and discourage rather than to win.” Gawker became the target of such threats from the church’s lawyers but remained adamant that the video was “Fair use”⁵ claiming in an official statement to the said lawyers:
Dear Ms Paquette,
We are using this video in the context of news reporting and critical commentary, which are uses that may not be authorized by your client, but which serve the public interest. For this, and other reasons, we believe our use is fair. We further do not accept that we have broken any criminal laws in publishing it, and it any event, several of the statutes you cite are inapplicable in this case.
We therefore believe that we are entirely within our rights to publish this video and as such we cannot comply with your removal request.
VP, Finance & Legal, Gawker Media
(Nick Denton. (2008). Church of Scientology Claims Copyright Infringement. Available: http://gawker.com/5002319/church-of-scientology-claims-copyright-infringement. Last accessed 15 April 2015.)
Anonymous took the church’s threats as a form of censorship and the online movement responded by calling for the church’s destruction In a video uploaded to Youtube on January 21st 2008 under a parody account titled ‘Church0fScientology’. Karin Pouw, public affairs director for the Church of Scientology, responded after the church’s sites began to be hit by several denial of service attacks. in an interview with Cnet.com, an online site that deals with tech, product reviews, news and forums with the following official statement:
“As the Church previously announced, the pirated and edited excerpts of Mr. Cruise were contained in an official Church event in 2004, an event attended by 5,000 Scientologists and their guests and further available for viewing in any Church of Scientology world over. Having presented these selective and out-of-context excerpts with the intent of creating both controversy and ridicule, nevertheless resulted in people searching for and visiting Church of Scientology Web sites as evidenced by “most searched for” lists of various search engines. Those wishing to find out the Church of Scientology’s views and to gain context of the video have the right to search official Church Web sites if they so desire.”
(Robert Vamosi. (2008). Church of Scientology responds to Internet attacks. Available: http://www.cnet.com/news/church-of-scientology-responds-to-internet-attacks/. Last accessed 16 April 2015.)
On January 27th (2008) a second video was uploaded by the same account (Church0fScientology) titled ‘Call to Action’ calling on those who opposed the values of the church to come out and take to the streets . Due to scientology’s aggressive nature against it critics ‘Anonymous’ had a set of rules for the first wave of its protest, the most famous of which is Rule 17: “Cover your face. This will prevent your identification from videos taken by hostiles”. For those who chose to wear masks the decision was simple: taking inspiration from the last scene of the film, in which a crowd of people dressed as Guy Fawkes watch the Houses of Parliament explode, in the “V for Vendetta” movie, this same mask provided just the cover that Anonymous needed.” C.C. (2014). How Guy Fawkes became the face of post-modern protest . Available: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/11/economist-explains-3. Last accessed 16 April 2015. Finally on February 7th a final video was uploaded by ‘Anonymous’ that read:
“Hello, church of Scientology. I present myself to you as Anonymous. I, like many others, have taken the time to become knowledgeable about the atrocities of your church, and have vowed to do everything in my power to put an end to your tyrannous methods.
Do not misread our intentions. We do not wage this crusade to denounce your faith. Ours is not to judge your beliefs, nor the beliefs of anyone else, and we do not question the validity of your faith. Any individual who does should not be taken as a representative of the greater whole that is Anonymous. We oppose the organization as a business, not a religion, of which it claims to be both.
How can a supposedly nonprofit organization cause its believers to go bankrupt to simply find answers no one can possibly know to questions about life?
Your work as a deceiver, corrupter, and succubus for the masses is commendable, no doubt, and your execution of your goal of ruining the lives of your followers for your own gain, as well as the restriction of information on all your matters, is truly masterful, almost without flaw. But as with all great evils in the course of human events, this organization shall fall. No more shall you charm the masses with your lies.
We carry with us not sword nor gun, and we do not attack you with warfare of the modern day. We are armed with the most powerful and ancient weapon of all, crafted by humans at the formation of our race and anathema to all you hold dear: Information. We will raise awareness of your wrongs to the populace, and, given time, your iron grip is sure to waver.
We are more than an enemy; we are an inevitability, the product of a race that desires freedom and justice. Knowledge is free, and faith should not come at a price.
We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive, and we do not forget. Soon you will know us, for we are the voices of the world around you.” – (Anonymous1321 http://www.Youtube.com)
Three days later, 7000 Anonymous members from one hundred cities across the globe came together in protest in front of Scientology churches. This marked the first time Anonymous had crawled out from behind their computer screens. Scientology soon became Anonymous’ main rival, with the church attacking members outside of demonstrations or by threatening legal action to members of the internet group who had been unmasked by private investigators hired by the church. Although at the time, from the perspective of an outsider looking at events, this may have seemed like two niche groups fighting, this marked the first wave of post-modern protest that would soon be iconiclly depicted by mainstream outlets today. Anonymous continued to attack the church simultaneously from three fronts – the first from the streets, the second at the church’s establishments and thirdly digitally with a constant barrage of DDOS attacks on the churches website. Through these varied attacks, Anonymous began dismantling what they considered the ‘misinformation’ the church presented. The group also found ways to counter the churches propaganda by using social media sites such as twitter and Facebook as well as it’s ‘safe’ zones, for instance, 4chans sub forum /b/ to not only advertise the current first wave of protests but to raise awareness of what the group deemed “crimes” of the church. The most prominent crime that the group chose to pinpoint was the case of Lisa Mcpherson, a young girl who was separated from her family by the church’s controversial ‘disconnect’ law that which did not permit church members to have any connection with non-believing members of their family. Jeff Jacobsen wrote on the Lisa Mcpherson website: “On December 5, 1995, Lisa McPherson was dead on arrival at a hospital 45 minutes north of Clearwater Florida. According to the coroner’s report, Lisa was underweight, severely dehydrated, and had bruises and bug bites. Scientologists chose to pass three hospitals en route to New Port Richey Hospital, where Scientologist Dr. David Minkoff was on duty. They could have gone to Morton Plant Hospital, only six minutes away.” Jeff Jacobsen. (2008). Lisa died needlessly at the hands of Scientology. Available: http://www.lisamcpherson.org/. Last accessed 16 April 2015.
Anonymous then began infiltrating Scientology even further by not only reviling how they were recruiting personnel but also removing the recruitment advertisements from the web. Scientology members had been posting classified adverts on Craigslist since to 2010 to secretly recruit new members often under the pretext of giving “spiritual guidance. “By December that year, the true colour of the ads had been exposed by Operation Clambake forum member RadioPaul, who managed to connect the dots between the ads on Craigslist and other local classified sites.“ After exposing the advertisements as manipulative, Anonymous proceeded to mass flag the advertisements as spam so the websites filter algorithm would automatically remove them once enough flags were raised.
This waged a propaganda war between both sides that formed a formidable anti-Scientology movement on a site called whyweprotest.net/. This was a site completely dedicated to OpChanology and was used as a central hub for critics of the church. “Throughout November 2012, posters continued to use the thread to share links to Scientology messages on their local Craigslist sites so other users could help flag the posts as spam.” However, in September 22, 2013 a blogger, called Tony Ortega who had been writing about the church leaked pages from a book with a chapter guide on how to write these very advertisements Anonymous posters were condemning .This was not only confirmed what was behind the attacks from Anonymous but completely legitimized their campaign against the church of Scientology and resulted in the removal of the churches one power – its secrecy.
Anonymous’ war on Scientology can still be seen today with the 2015 release of a new documentary entitled ‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief’ directed and written by Alex Gibney. The documentary describes itself “an in-depth look at the inner-workings of the Church of Scientology.“ (IMDB) This is the type of exposure that arguably would not of happened if Anonymous had not cast the Church out from the shadows. The success of Operation Chanology was a rallying cry for Anonymous and gave the group not only confidence but also brought them to the attention of news medias. Due to Anonymous’ moral stance it was much harder to paint these “Hackers” as villains and the image of Anonymous as a group hiding behind their computers started to emerge as legitimate “protesters”. In 2008 the BBC displayed on the website ‘Masked protest over Scientology’ referring to the group as “Masked demonstrators“ BBC (2008). Masked protest over Scientology . Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7237862.stm. Last accessed 20th April 2015. This was one of the first times Anonymous was mentioned on mainstream media. However, although this gave the group legitimacy it also highlighted the organization as a threat to the authorities.
Chapter 3: How Hackers fought the establishment
With Operation Payback in 2010 Anonymous were well on the way to being recognized as an online leaderless movement with fully autonomous global members who stood for freedom of information. Operation Payback was a series of coordinated DDOs attack against major entertainment monopolies such as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association and the attacks brought down these two major corporations for an entire month. In December, members who had participated in Operation Payback shifted their attention to the online journalistic tool Wikileaks. Anonymous launched an attack on Paypal, Visa and Mastercard for their blockade over donations being made to Wikileaks. The blockade consisted of refusing to allow transactions to be made to the wikileak’s site due to what can only be considered to be political pressure over the controversy regarding the site. The Mail online in a 2012 article wrote about the attack, referring back to Anonymous as “A computer hacking gang, who caused major companies multi-million pound losses,(and) boasted there was ‘next to zero’ chance they would be caught, a court heard.” What was interesting about this event was that while Anonymous’ actions abroad depicted them as demonstrators and protesters, when they attacked western super powers, they are labeled with criminal rhetoric as seen in the Mail online “The gang even discussed hacking pop star Lily Allen’s website in revenge for her stance on anti-piracy, Southwark Crown Court heard.” Eddie Wrenn . (2012). Next to zero chance’ of getting caught: Boasts of ‘Anonymous’ computer hackers who brought down Mastercard and Paypal in Wikileaks protest PayPal lost £3.5million after site was taken offline by . Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2238601/Boasts-Anonymous-hackers-brought-Mastercard-Paypal-Wikileaks-protest.html. Last accessed 20th April 2015.
On January the 2nd 2011, Anonymous as well several other “hacktivist” groups began collaborating with Tunisian Anonymous members and activists and it began traditionally with several DDOS attack against Tunisian government websites. Many western Anonymous members were participating due to wiki-leaks exposure of the human rights violations that were prevalent in the country, but for the Anonymous supporters and participants in Tunisia it was a call for revolution. Most mainstream outlets ignored the slow beat of the revolution moving throughout the middle east but Anonymous did not: “As Anons realized the significance of what was taking place in Tunisia – and the fact that it was being ignored by foreign media – they collaborated with Tunisian dissidents to help them share videos with the outside world. “ Yasmine Ryan |. (2011). Anonymous and the Arab uprisings. Available: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/05/201151917634659824.html. Last accessed 20th April 2015. Following on from the methods used in the war against the church of Scientology, Anonymous attacked the Tunisian government on two sides. While Tunisian activists and protesters stormed the streets, Anonymous members on the web began their cyber-dissidence by attacking websites and creating what were dubbed “Care Packages” which were translated into French and Arabic. These “Care Packages” gave advice to the Tunisian protesters on how to conceal their identity online as well as offering medical advice and basic first aid to those on the street. Hackers within the group also wrote a “grease monkey script” which was a coded extension to the Mozilla Firefox browser. This allowed users to evade government phishing for their online details as well as avoid the cyber police active in the country. It was during these events that Anonymous first came to the attention of the U.S Government as the western super power witnessed the online group instigate the start of a revolution anonymously from the comfort of their home PCs.
The protests which began in Tunisia in 2011 quickly spread to neighbouring countries and led to what became know as the ‘Arab Spring’. After Tunisia, Anonymous quickly turned it’s focus to Algeria where use of the internet was limited and heavily monitored by the state. Then, on January the 25, Anonymous launched OpEgypt. At the request of Egyptian activists, Anonymous worked hand in hand with the hacker think tank Telecomix to restore mirrors to websites and create proxies to bypass government filtering. As well as hacking fax machines in Egypt to communicate with activists on the ground through the old dial up system,others took to more analog tactics by placing massive pizza orders to various Egyptian embassies around the globe. By now these attacks against governments had become second nature to most Anonymous members who had worked relentlessly to support the people of the middle east. While supporting Egypt, other parts of the now vast group were making their way to support the Libyan revolutionaries. In the Al-jazeera article titled ‘Anonymous and the Arab uprisings’ members of the internet group were quoted saying: “Libyan freedom fighters came to Anonops ( a popular IRC chat room that was part of Anonymous) as a safe meeting point.” This format of guerrilla style journalism and activism created by a platonic cyber democracy, along with brutal real life events that members witnessed, allowed Anonymous to turn from it’s juvenile prankster activities into a mature, politically motivated group that demanded to be taken seriously.
Because of their involvement in what was happening in the middle east, Anonymous started to appear in news headlines. Members of the organization found themselves being asked by the media to give interviews to explain what were the organization’s motives in getting involved in the ‘Arab Spring’. The most prominent spokes person was self proclaimed anarchist and American journalist, Barrett Brown, who has previously written for such outlets as The Guardian and Vanity Fair. Brown had formed a crowd sourced investigative project between 2009 and 2010 entitled Project PM. He had caught the eye of Anonymous back in 2010 while he was writing a book called ‘Political pundits’. However, he gave up on his book to team up with Anonymous when he became aware of the online group’s anti-censorship operations which were burgeoning in Australia. Brown stated: “I am now certain that this phenomenon is among the most important and under-reported social developments to have occurred in decades, and that the development in question promises to threaten the institution of the nation-state and perhaps even someday replace it as the world’s most fundamental and relevant method of human organization.” (Barrett Brown February 2010). He soon became the face of Anonymous and with his journalistic background made it that much harder to scrutinize the group and its actions. Brown created his own off shoot partner titled ‘Project PM’ where he collaborated with existing Anonymous partners he had networked with while participating in Operation Tunisia.
Project PM’s purpose was to combat the surveillance state in America and the rest of the world. Barret began investigating mushroom mercenary companies and military think tanks. “I began recruiting individuals with a variety of backgrounds for an experimental online group, the initial purpose being to conceive and put into play new dynamics by which to improve information flow on the internet, as well as to develop new methods of practical online collaboration. A number of proposals were discussed among the participants whom I’d managed to bring in via announcements on The Huffington Post, Skeptical Inquirer, and other outlets for which I was writing at the time. Some work was done on a sort of “collaborative network” that could theoretically grow from the inside out without incurring a decrease in the average capabilities/seriousness of its participant base. Meanwhile, an operation by which to improve the state of science journalism in the U.S. by coupling volunteer scientists with working journalists was launched (with only moderate success, beyond a few collaborations we managed to facilitate here and there), and another was planned involving “crowd-sourced Africa development,” as one might term it. All in all, Project PM was more experiment than success for the first year of its existence, but it did manage to attract several dozen individuals with an unusual array of talent and certain shared ideas and values.”Barret Brown . (2012). The Purpose of Project PM . Available: http://barrettbrown.blogspot.com/2012/05/purpose-of-project-pm.html. Last accessed 20th April 2015. While investigating, Brown proudly became a face for journalists to speak to and was a bridge of communication between the press and the Anonymous community. Although not an Anonymous “member”, Brown considered himself part of the community and further legitimized Anonymous movements. He was not a hacker, and it became apparent to outsiders looking at the group that to be part of Anonymous you did not need to have computer skills, that it was rather an ideology centered around technology and you could get involved through supporting or actively participating. Brown and Anonymous worked hand in hand with each other and had a definite impact on world events.
In January 2011, U.S contractor Aron Barr CEO of HBGary, a subsidiary to super corporation ManTech, which focused on private security intelligence and military Software became interested in Anonymous’ activities. HBGary clients ranged from the the U.S government and Israeli officials to major oil corporations. During this period, Aron Barr began making bold claims about the group known as Anonymous. At the time he was working for he FBI with regards to cyber security, and based on his work he devised a plan to infiltrate groups like Wikileaks and Anonymous by “friending” them and feeding them false information in order to discredit them. “Barr decided there was no better target than Anonymous. About a month prior, in December 2010, the news media exploded with reports that a large and mysterious group of hackers had started attacking the websites of Mastercard,Paypal and Visa in retaliation for their having to cut funds to Wikilieaks. ” (Parmy Olson We Are Anonymous inside the hacker world of Lulzsec Anonymous , and the global digital insurgency ). Barr was making claims that he knew the leaders of Anonymous and although the group claimed it was leaderless he believed this to be a lie. In fact he claimed it was a small group and that he had located the major players that ran it. Barr was working with the FBI who were currently beginning to investigate Anonymous. In a quote from online editorial service http://www.Wired.com Barr was quoted saying “At any given time there are probably no more than 20-40 people active, accept during hightened points of activity like Egypt and Tunisia where the numbers swell but mostly by trolls,” he wrote in an internal e-mail. (All e-mails in this investigative report are provided verbatim, typos and all.) He also stated that “Most of the people in the IRC channel are zombies to inflate the numbers.” in reference to the online hacktivist group.
However, Anonymous were not happy with Mr Barr’s behaviour towards them. Parmy Olson in her book writes the following about what happened next: “Across America on February 6,2011, millions of people were settling into their couches, splitting open bags of nachos, and spilling beer into plastic cups in preparation for the year’s biggest sporting event. On that super bowl Sunday, during which the green bay Packers conquered the Pittsburgh Steelers, a digital security executive named Aaron Barr watched helplessly as seven people whom he’d never met turned his life upside down. Super Bowl Sunday was the day he came face-to-face with Anonymous” Parmy Olson. (2012). The Raid. In: P Olson We Are Anonymous inside the hacker world of Lulzsec Anonymous , and the global digital insurgency . 2nd ed. New York Boston: Little Brown and Company. 3pp. Aaron Barr knew something was wrong that day as his iphone had not buzzed in his pocket which was unusual. When he eventually got round to checking his phone on that morning he was greeted by a blue screen that read ‘Can not get Mail’; when he proceeded to attempt to reset his password the client prompted Barr to type in his password ‘Kibafo33” yet it came up as incorrect. It dawned on Barr that only a few days earlier he had been snooping in an Anonymous internet relay chat room trying to gain intelligence on Anonymous members, in particular, LULzsec member Topiary who he had obviously mistaken as the entirety of Anonymous rather than a member of a certain section of it. Barr then tried to access his Facebook and twitter finally trying to access his Yahoo email. However, he was locked out of all of his accounts. Even though he was CEO of a security firm, Aaron Barr had used the same password for all his social media and email accounts as well as Hbgary Federal. As well as making a mockery of Hbgary’s security, Anonymous also brought to light what can only be described as criminal intent when they leaked several documents. An analysis of the content revealed what appears to be a proposal, written for leading US legal firm Hunton & Williams by HBGary Federal, on how to bring down wikileaks (PDF) through a combination of hacking and disinformation. It was prepared in conjunction with data analysis firm Palantir Technologies and consultants Berico Technologies. The document suggests a campaign of misinformation involving feeding false documents into Wikileaks and exposing them to discredit the site’s output. Hacking attacks against the central Wikileaks document server in Sweden were also suggested. The presentation recommended researching the backgrounds of those involved in Wikileaks to identify “risky behavior”, and a media campaign which would ” create concern and doubt among moderates”. This media campaign may also have included attacks on journalists perceived as pro-Wikileaks. The presentation highlighted Glen Greenwald of Salon.com as a key target.”
On May 2011 an off shoot and soon to be partner of Anonymous formed named LULZSec. The group consisted of three known members who went under the aliases Sabu, Topiary & Kayla; their motivation was simple to have fun and bring back the “LULZ” Anonymous had lost when turning from pranksters and hackers to political demonstrators. They formed a twitter handle @Lulzsec and labeled themselves “the world’s leaders in high-quality entertainment at your expense” (The Lulz Boat, Twitter) They kicked things off by attacking right wing news outlet Fox News during that month. LULZSec released several passwords and Linkedin profiles of Fox News network staff as well as accumulating 73,000 X Factor contestants personal details. During May 15th the rampage continues as LULZsec release 3100 British ATM transaction logs. In the same month LULZSsec gained international attention bringing Anonymous in to the spotlight with it when attacking PBS for its attacks against Wikileaks. “LulzSec acknowledged that it had hacked PBS in response to a documentary about WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning, who allegedly passed sensitive information to WikiLeaks and whose imprisonment has become a source of international controversy. WikiLeaks had complained about the documentary, saying it was biased against the organization.” Jack Mirkinson. (2011). PBS Hacked Again By LulzSec In Retaliation For WikiLeaks Documentary. Available: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/31/pbs-hacked-again-by-lulzs_n_868941.html. Last accessed 20th April 2015.
Chapter 4: The price of revolution.
However, this spree came at a heavy price, as on June the 7th 2011, Sabu real name Hector Xavier Monsegur, was arrested. Sabu was both a prominent member of Anonymous and Lulzsec “his substantial impact on the Anonymous underworld was made from a tiny apartment in the impoverished projects of the Lower East Side, where his self-taught facility with computers led him into hacking to help his grandmother pay her bills by stealing credit card information. He was at the forefront of audacious raids such as the posting of an Anonymous open letter on the website of the Tunisian prime minister during the 2011 uprisings, hacks into major companies such as Visa, Mastercard and PayPal in protest against their refusal to take donations to Wikileaks, and a breach of the FBI subsidiary Infragard, which is what finally led federal agents to his door.” Ed Pilkington . (2014). Anonymous superhacker turned FBI informant Sabu remains defiant over snitching . Available: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/09/hacker-sabu-defends-informing-anonymous-fbi-interview. Last accessed april 20th 2015. Unlike the other members of LULzSec, Sabu was in this solely for political activism and the way he communicated and acted was much more militant. He saw Anonymous as a tool of revolution “The whole idea of LULz didn’t sit comfortably with Sabu, who was more interested in hacking as a form of protest. But realized Anonymous needed some inspiration, and figured he could steer Topiary and the others toward more serious pursuits.” (We Are Anonymous inside the hacker world of Lulzsec Anonymous , and the global digital insurgency) However, despite all his words Sabu seemed to have no qualms in going over to the other side and he did so quickly: “Since literally the day he was arrested, the defendant has been cooperating with the government proactively, sometimes staying up all night engaging in conversations with co-conspirators to help the government build cases against them”, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Pastore said at a secret bail hearing on August 5, 2011.
Meanwhile similar feelings of rebellion began to surface in the western world just like it had in the middle east with the Occupy moment sprouting up in various locations around the world. “The story of how Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street intertwine dates back to February 2010, to the birth of “The 99 Percent Movement.”The notion of “the 99 percent” most likely started with journalist David DeGraw in his 2010 book, The Economic Elite vs. The People of the United States. “The harsh truth is that 99% of the US population no longer has political representation,” DeGraw writes. As a follow-up, he formed the 99 Percent Movement, a social network soliciting ideas for a platform of economic and legal reform.” Sean Captain. (2011). The Real Role Of Anonymous In Occupy Wall Street. Available: http://www.fastcompany.com. Last accessed 22nd April 2015. The Occupy movement was inspired by the Arab Spring, and ultimately the actions and methods of Anonymous, as well as the general equality movements popping up in Europe at the time, for example, the Spanish Indignados movement began in mid-May 2011. The demands were simply that they wanted economic equality and an end to class warfare. This was a direct result of the financial crash back in 2008 where the global economy and its bankers were bailed out by the public. Sabu while an informant for the FBI played an integral role in instigating the Occupy moment. This was because as a popular member of Anonymous he had a large following both in IRC rooms and on Social Media accounts. On June 19th Sabu (now working for the FBI) forms another off shoot this time from LulzSec called Antisec guided towards a more politically motivated agenda rather than for the lulz. On September 17th the streets began to fill in New York city as protesters took to to Wall Street to confront their economic elites and among these activists were participants and or collaborators of Anonymous who on August 23rd released a video that it would support the Occupy movement. “Most people learned about hacktivist involvement in the occupation—indeed about the occupation at all—from an August 23 YouTube video. Purporting to be from Anonymous (the most that can be said for any video), it announced plans to mobilize 20,000 people in lower Manhattan. The buzzword “Anonymous” garnered media attention from NPR to the Huffington Post to CNNMoney. And according to a September 2 article in Computerworld, it even spawned Department of Homeland Security alerts.” Sean Captain. (2011). The Real Role Of Anonymous In Occupy Wall Street. Available: http://www.fastcompany.com/1788397/real-role-anonymous-occupy-wall-street. Last accessed 27th April 2015. Anonymous continued to spread the word using Twitter, blogs, Internet Relay Chat rooms. About 1000 people turned up initially in Manhattan Square with many in the crowd wearing the signature Guy Fawkes mask Anonymous had branded as its own. At the time New York had been monitoring the protests and we must assume also that at the time so was the FBI, given that their informant was a key player in the movement, rallying his “brothers & sisters” to flood the streets, completely unaware he was working for the agency that was hunting them. Back when the Occupy movement was young, participants began posting stories and media to a new Tumblr page associated with The 99% movement that started gaining traction and on September 19th the movement was endorsed by celebrity Rosanne Barr. The media reaction was clearly politically swayed and biased towards these events with the mail stating “Comedienne and actress Roseanne Barr has launched another scathing attack – this time taking aim at bankers, ordering them to return profits or be beheaded. The controversial self-proclaimed presidential candidate appeared on the Russia Today television programme Keiser Report to reveal her solution for dealing with the economic crisis saying the banks should repay the money the U.S. government bailed them out with in 2008.” Daily Mail Reporter . (2011). ‘Bring back the guillotine and behead those who won’t give up wealth’: Roseanne Barr’s solution to the banking crisis. Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2044747/Roseanne-Barrs-solution-banking-crisis-Bring-guillotine.html. Last accessed 29th April 2015. NewsMax the American news outlet went with headline ‘Horowitz: Occupy Wall Street Protesters Are ‘Idiots”. As well as biased media reports, the so-called occupiers also endured extreme prejudice from law enforcement. The NYPD began to reinforce an arcane law from 1845 so they could specifically target masked Anonymous members of the protest. On September 20th “five people connected with the protest to “occupy” Wall Street have been issued a violation for running afoul of the antimask law, according to police. “People here are very acutely aware of it now because of the arrests,” Laura MacAuley, a spokeswoman for the social media-fueled event, said Monday.” Sean Gardiner And Jessica Firger . (2011). Rare Charge Is Unmasked. Available: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111904194604576581171443151568. Last accessed 30th April 2015. These attacks continued and on September 24th 80 more people were arrested while marching. Anonymous was quick to notice the brutality of the police as videos began to circulate of excessive police force and trigger happy cops with pepper spray. Throughout the coming months police proceeded to arrest members of the movement, with 700 people taken into custody in October alone. However, despite the States best attempts to suppress the movement, it erupted on August 6th when about 4,000 protesters marched in Portland and more demonstrations unfolded in Houston, Austin, Tampa, and San Francisco. By October 9th these protests happening in nine-hundred cities across eighty-two countries, all preaching economic and political equality. However just like the dictators in the middle east clamped down on their demonstrators, so did the American government. Although arguably (partially) instigating the Occupy movement, the FBI was also involved in cracking down on protesters. In Naomi Wolf’s Guardian article ‘Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy’ she states “ It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves. “ (Guardian, September 9th 2012). According to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), “Freedom of Information Act revealed that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence” at Occupy protests.” (http://www.justiceonline.org 2012) Not only this but in a redacted document later released by the FBI we discover that the Domestic Security Alliance Council a collaboration of FBI, DHS and local police forces conspired to destroy the Occupy movement. At least six campus universities in America were revealed to be under investigation by campus police who funneled information about students involved with Occupy moment to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge. World banks also sat down with FBI officials to pool information about protesters harvested by private security to use against them.
However, Anonymous still unaware of its infiltration from the FBI had not given up. In response to law enforcement attacks against the the protesters of Occupy, Anonymous began to scan the countless hours of citizen journalism picked up from the events of Occupy. They formed what was titled ‘Cabin Cr3w’, a Tumblr page dedicated to exposing anything and everything about NYPD officers (who were heavily criticized by the press and several human rights groups including Amnesty international). This is often refereed to in the hacking world as D0x or D0xxing and included information onbadge numbers to credit card details. Despite its best efforts, the suppression from world governments, the banking sector and specifically the American Government Agency who were instigating a false flag operation with an Anonymous member, the movement was brought to an end in November 2011. The exposure of these events are still incomplete as much of it has been redacted by the FBI. However, it is clear there was a political agenda by both the presses reaction to Occupy as well as how law enforcement was used to not only manipulate, but shut down the movement with extreme violence, something western politicians has previously condemned in the middle east.
Shortly after this, on November 7th Sabu’s new group AntiSec, with what we can only assume was with the FBI’s permission hacked Stratfor, a think tank in Austin, Texas. They sent out daily news letters about security and intelligence matters all over the world. Strafor’s clients included the Defense Department, Lockheed Martin and Bank of America. Sabu enlisted the help of crypto-Anarchist Jeremy Hammond who was using the handle Anarchaos at the time and was another prominent member of Anonymous. “Anonymous hackers broke into web servers of Stratfor and copied 200 gigabytes worth of data. Thus far, it appears that the hackers have details only about Stratfor customers who purchased Stratfor’s newsletter, but the hackers could easily have more than that. Several reports indicate Anonymous will next release more than 3.3 million client e-mails. An independent analysis by data loss and identity theft prevention service Identity Finder says that, so far, 9,651 active credit cards, 47,680 unique e-mail addresses, 25,680 unique phone numbers and 44,188 encrypted passwords were hacked from the A through M name list. More details will be released in the coming days as Anonymous publishes the N through Z list of names. Stratfor looks especially bad in this instance because the credit card data was not encrypted, which means it was much easier than usual for Anonymous to steal and crack open. It’s quite the amateur mistake for a so-called “intelligence” firm.” Sean Ludwig. (2011). 10 things you need to know about Anonymous’ Stratfor hack. Available: http://venturebeat.com/2011/12/28/anonymous-stratfor-hack-10-things-to-know/. Last accessed 30th April 2015. Anonymous proceeded to publish the data via twitter disseminating the information across the web. However it is clear in retrospect that this was a trap to incriminate several Anonymous members. That would inevitably lead to Hammond’s arrest and a 10 year prison sentence in November 2013.
Anti-sec continued to hack government websites. Ironically Anonymous with the help of Anti-sec launched “fuck fed Fridays” where every Friday in February that year Anonymous and Anti-sec would hack the establishment, releasing private phone calls of the FBI and Scotland Yard who were caught confirming strategies on how to target members of Anonymous. It is unclear whether this was a fake operation orchestrated by the government agencies, by Sabu founder of Anit-sec or whether the hackers obtaining the information were legitimate and unwittingly exposed the phone calls to the FBI themselves. However during these attacks including the one on Stratfor, Sabu supplied information to the FBI with details that led to the arrest of five co-conspirators associated with the group LULzsec including the already mentioned Jeremy Hammond along with Topiary and James Jeffery both from the UK.
This blow to the internet movement was devastating. In Vivien Lesnik Weisman’s Documentary ‘The Hacker wars’, Anonymous member ‘subverzo’ described everyone’s paranoia as “off the roof”. Sabu, renowned for his militant tone had inspired many of the members of Anonymous and most probably Lulzsec to commit these crimes. Behind this was the FBI who were playing a waiting game in order to catch the key players. Hammond was already on a government watch list in March 2012 when he was eventually arrested. A further blow to the community in the same month, was the raid on Barret Brown’s house. The FBI stormed his house live on web cam in front of various Anonymous members in tinychat.com, a popular web cam chat room used by the members. Barrett is still facing a 105 year jail sentence for his role within Anonymous of publishing hacked material into his journalism project.
Despite these attacks by the authority, Anonymous has endured as a movement. In 2012 the group rose up against a U.S government bill entitled ACTA which critics claimed was a violent censorship bill. Anonymous took yet again to social media and formulated operations not only to make people aware of the bill, but to prevent it. On July 4th The Inquirer ran the story ‘Death of ACTA is celebrated’ (July 2012) where in the Polish MP’s wore Guy Fawkes masks in celebration of their victory against the U.S.A’s new law. Between 2012-2015 Anonymous’ most consistent Operations have been the annual Million Mask March that mirrors the Occupy spirit and where hundreds to thousands of people flood major cities across the globe to protest against austerity. The most recent one was in 2014 where about 700 people marched in London, disrupted traffic and clashed with the police. The other is Operation Israel, where Anonymous teamed up with AnonGhost an Arabic hacking team in solidarity with the Palestinian conflict. Anonymous have also played a role in the struggle of African Americans within the USA, and the police prejudice towards many of them. The most successful of these was the shooting of Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. In this instance, Anonymous went as far as to take on the KKK, inevitability wiping most members from the web as well as exposing extensive ties that linked the Prosecutor, and Wilson, to an off shoot of the Klu Klux Klan known as the Traditional Knights of America.
Anonymous may have taken a killing blow by the the FBI, however it still works in small sections of the internet and many who want greater exposure of their cause still call out to Anonymous for help. There are many ongoing operations such as Operation Seaworld which originated from the revelations exposed in the 2014 documentary ‘Blackfish’, while others help spread the word of online anonymity and web safety. In its whole, Anonymous can be likened to the head of the hydra – remove one head and another just grows back. It sits somewhere on the fringe of Marxism and Anarchy and is in my opinion a democratic philosophy and ideology attached to the human spirit of revolution. I think even with many key players arrested, Anonymous still poses a great threat to existing power structures and corporate monopolies after all in the final tweet from Topiary before he was taken away by authorities he stated “you can not arrest an Idea”. What Anonymous does may sometimes seem threatening, may not be legal, but what it does do is give the people a voice and does not sit back and allow injustices to go unpunished and it uses the digital technology that is available to do this.