I heard about the “hacktivist” group Anonymous before they came to the defense of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, but I really started to pay attention after they launched successful distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on the major credit card companies and PayPal for shutting down financial transactions to WikiLeaks. Immediately I started to comb the internet to learn all I could about this secret group. I was intrigued by this anonymous group who were out there risking it all to protect internet censorship, government surveillance and corporate control of the internet.
So, who are they and what do we know about them? Anonymous is a leaderless group that has no overarching philosophy and of which anyone can claim to be a part. There is no membership card or way to join, which is why they have been so successful and elusive. Instead of focusing on what Anonymous is as an entity, I feel by focusing on their exploits we can learn more about them.
Here are a few of their exploits that are well documented:
Anonymous inserted itself into the Arab Spring and played a major role - starting with the Tunisian Revolution - by shutting down various Tunisian government-run websites with DDoS attacks. Anonymous also dished out software like TOR aka The Onion Router for protesters to use to evade online detection by the Tunisian government. Although the heavy lifting of the revolution was done the brave Tunisians on the streets risking life and limb, the role that Anonymous played was extremely helpful in bringing down that government.
Operation Dark Net / #OpDarknet
Anonymous members on numerous occasions while roaming around the deep internet, a part of the internet that is unknown and not used by most, have bumped into child porn sites and child porn brokers. In 2011 they took down 40 child porn sites, published the names of over 1500 people frequenting those websites and alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Chelsea Manning is an American Army PVT who released an enormous amount of top-secret information via a WikiLeaks, a drop box used by whistleblowers. The information that Chelsea Manning released was unprecedented in that there was not a part of the American government that it didn’t effect. Anonymous was sympathetic and took notice, and when allegations of abuse came out that the U.S. military held Chelsea Manning in solitary confinement unclothed and with the lights on 24 hours day they unleashed cyber attacks on Marine Corps Brig, Quantico.
These are the actions of Anonymous, and it is all to clear that we are living in a brave new world were non-state actors can use their free agency in powerful ways that can impact the globe with a few strokes of a keyboard.
We at False Prophet will constantly report on the happening of information activists and their effect on society because we believe, as Louis Brandeis did, that "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."