How Anonymous 'hacktivists' are waging an online war
A strangerwho identifies himself only as YAC is typing a message on my computer screen via a remote connection: "Anonymous isn't scared of anything.
" YAC is a member of the activist collective currently waging an online war against Islamic State (IS, or Isis) and is telling me about its latest mission, OpParis.
While Anonymous has been "publicly taking on IS for months", with other "operations" like OpIsis being carried out across the world, this week the hackers stepped things up a gear, retaliating for the attacks that killed 129 people in Paris on Friday.
Like IS, Anonymous use new technology to bring down established, powerful systems. Previous targets include MasterCard, which it hacked, Scientology and child pornography sites. Their reach is a matter of debate in July, Anonymous claimed to have taken data from the US Census Bureau but the Bureau said none of its internal systems had been affected.
On Saturday Anonymous uploaded a video to YouTube of a figure in one of the group's trademark Guy Fawkes masks, inspired by the film V for Vendetta, telling IS: "You should know that we will find you and we will not let you go. We will launch the biggest operation against you. War is declared."
Then on Tuesday night it hacked more than 6,000 Twitter accounts linked to IS and overloaded the site's servers until they were taken down. They posted details of the accounts to an online forum, labelling them daeshbags, a reference to "daesh", the Arabic acronym for IS. They also released "how to" guides, so we can all join them pandora chrams on the new front line.
Founded in 2003 on an online bulletin board, Anonymous evades definition. Its original aim was entertainment, or "lulz". Then it moved towards hacktivism, supporting the Occupy movement and WikiLeaks, though the people I speak to say Julian Assange is "a prick".
The closest this global movement comes to describing itself is in a video where it talks about "people who carry out actions against oppressive targets with no leaders and no ideology". Ilia Kolochenko, the CEO of IT security firm High Tech Bridge, says "there are different branches", while others accuse it of being nothing more than a bunch of chaotic online vigilantes. Some argue that Anonymous cannot even be called a group, and is more of a "stamping herd of wary individuals".
The members I speak to have a strong sense of being part of a community and say: "No one is in Anonymous, they become it." They are keen to assert that it is not just "a US or UK white man". Most action is done by "hacktivists" online but on November 5 each year thousands gather for the Million Mask March through central London "to protest against corruption in power".
We speak through a site called Titan Pad, which allows those invited to view and edit a document in real time. It's called internet relay chat, and is a common way for this subculture to communicate. During our virtual meeting, seven users came and went, peppering conversation with hacker slang and abbreviations like "irl" (in real life), "g2g" (got to go), and "doxing" (sharing someone else's documents). They make some grand assertions about their impact that are difficult to take seriously, and have a tendency to speak in lofty absolutes and lapse into clich, but are generally sincere and friendly, if earnest. A typical slogan is "judge the verb not the noun".
The sprawling and uncodified nature of the group means you can never be entirely sure who you are speaking to. In theory, anyone could be an "Anon", from a maths professor at MIT doing Homeland level hacking in her spare time to a 13 year old novice borrowing his mother's iPad.
No one in our chat gives their real name. When I ask if I can be sure they are in the group pandora bracelets charms store locator they cryptically say: "The nature of Anonymous is that it is decentralised and thus there is no 'official' process or representation." They make geeky jokes, saying they joined because "they promised me cookies". When I ask if they have other friends in the group they fall silent.
The aim of this operation is "to disrupt IS recruitment". "The goal is to expose IS members and give the public a sense of fighting back against an entity they know little about or are manipulated to fear by its acts, and media which continue to amplify IS as a threat while ignoring all the factors that create terrorism globally." There has been no comment from IS but the Anons I spoke to say "[IS] is scared".
Kolochenko says: "Technically speaking OpIsis is more likely to have been about deactivating than hacking. Twitter is difficult to take over, even for advanced hackers, because it has a good internal security system. It is more probable that they blocked all the accounts, either with an automated programme or just by hand, which men pandora charms isn't very time consuming. I don't think it will give a huge result. Unfortunately supporters of IS will create other accounts or jump on to other social networks. But it is a good action to show that European society does not agree with Isis and create some inconveniences."
The Anonymous members I speak to agree that hacking is not a solution. Nor is "killing people irl". They want to give people a sense of agency and "disrupt the spread of Isis propaganda".
"Anons within Syria have been targeting them since the beginning. IS is a Frankenstein's monster. The first and foremost solution to the immediate IS crisis is for the war in Syria to halt and all war criminals involved in Syria, and elsewhere be brought to justice, which includes prosecuting Assad regime officials. When there is peace the Syrian people will decide what sort of government they will use to rebuild their country. The rest of us will then have to deal with the terrorism in our countries and decide what to do, because killing all the 'bad guys' is simply not working."
Could taking down Twitter accounts mean IS moves to other forms of communication that security services are unable to track? "Security services haven't been able to stop any IS attacks yet, except the one Ghost Sec/Anonymous told them about." I suggest that Twitter could act against IS. "By making Twitter accountable for IS it opens up a Pandora's box where governments can shut down dissent under the guise of combating terrorism, including Anonymous."
Despite concerns around recent hacks of bank accounts, TalkTalk and Mumsnet, Anonymous says: "Hacking has always been a force for good, it is our governments and corporations that use hacking to track down activists, monitor humanitarian aid workers" Anyway, "there are no good guys or bad guys, just social and anti social actions". pandora wife charm At this point they stop typing. I worry that I have offended them by asking for proof they really are expert cyber pirates, but then they return and say they were in the middle of a meeting even alternative fringes are subject to bureaucratic process.
Anonymous describes its strategy as "like a blunderbuss. Everything just sort of happens in a scattered manner with no single vector". How do they manage to fit the hacking around their lives, do they chain smoke and drink black coffee to stay awake? "Anonymous tries to maintain a healthy lifestyle with plenty of yoga, martial arts, and healthy vegan food choices with at least 12 hours of sleep. We also brush our teeth, bathe daily, and get plenty of sunlight, therefore hacking doesn't disrupt our daily routine." It's difficult to gauge sarcasm over Titan Pad chat.
They don't necessary share the same politics and say "there is no single opinion we can agree on". One says Jeremy Corbyn "looks like a substitute teacher. Probably a nice guy. Would love it if he was PM and Donald Trump was president. IMAGINE THE BANTER BRO?" Later this is deleted and replaced with the more diplomatic: "Anonymous has no political, religious, sexual, or racial affiliation. Everyone has their own reason to become Anonymous."
Anonymous's last big action was leaking a list of Ku Klux Klan sympathisers earlier this month. But it "learned nothing" from this. "One of the major problems is that anyone can push false content and claim to be Anonymous, doxing the wrong people is always a present problem."
So how would I join? They send me a YouTube video of the Million Mask March saying "Anonymous defends the weak against the powerful" and that the appeal is part of an urge from young people "to participate in their own governance besides voting. Anyone can create an operation and the success or rapid growth of each operation depends on whether or not other Anons agree to participate or amplify the operation."
What's next? "We are going to hack the world. We'll beat all tyrants, and yes they are scared. Governance should be an action, not a noun. We don't need representatives or politicians we just need people to intiate actions and start doing them."Click the Adblock/Adblock Plus icon, which is to the right of your address bar.
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