The name “anonymous” is a term widely used in online blogs and forums to hide the identity of an individual who post commentaries, images, or upload videos. The origins of the groups Anonymous can be traced back to the /b/ board of 4chan, a website that originally started out as an image board, where users can post almost anything anonymously and without fear from reprisal and criticism. The name Anonymous would soon be touted as the name of an activist group who use the Internet as their engine of protest. Anonymous isn’t centrally organized nor does it have any leadership structure, but rather, a system of self governing as interpreted by a group or individual at the time of action for which its purpose is determined to bring global attention to social events from around the world.
Members of the group Anonymous refer to themselves as “anons” who have no defined philosophy or internal dissent. Anonymous is a self-proclaimed hacktivist group who garners the attention of the media when engaged in their hacktivist exploits against any opposing individual, organization, or government. Hacking is Anonymous’ weapon of choice as it has been the corner stone of their arsenal used against the opposition. Anons mainly oppose Internet censorship and control but other areas of interests have long since grown into a broad spectrum of subject matters on social issues. While many consider Anonymous the good guys, just as many consider them to be cyber terrorists that lack morals and dignity by sidestepping the justice system and using the Internet as an attack mechanism against its foes.
Because Anonymous has no leadership there cannot be any single action against the group as a whole. Anonymous is cloaked in speculation regarding who the central figure is behind the group. The truth may never be known but one things is for sure, there are many factions of the group located all over the globe who each have their own ideologies of what the purpose of the group is. Many lone wolves commit crimes in the name of Anonymous but actually may never had participated formally in the group. The individual factions of the group, ranging from various religious and political backgrounds, mostly decide in their own beliefs, what they believe to be unjust and therefore what their next target should be. For example, when the Motion Pictures and Recording Industry of America sued Pirate Bay, an online file-sharing site, Anonymous saw this as an injustice against “freedom of speech” and subsequently engaged in online warfare against the American media giants. Anonymous launched Distributed Denial of Service attacks against the multimedia mogul’s websites. It is estimated that the losses range in the hundreds of millions for the media moguls; as a result, Anonymous is viewed as a real and viable threat, which is why the NSA, FBI, and CIA have dedicated resources to dismantle the group.
The impact of Anonymous can be measured in lost revenue for most companies. 2011 is the first year that security breaches and data loss due to the result of hacktivism has exceeded those of actual criminal enterprises as a whole. This caused large companies and multimedia outlets to take the group more seriously and as a result have beefed up their online security efforts. It has yet to be seen the full impact the group Anonymous has contributed to this effort. Eighty-five percent of the cases where hacktivism occurred were discovered months or more after the breach had occurred with 92% of the events being discovered by a third party.
Anonymous targets anyone who is seen in their own eyes as unjust and worthy of their efforts. Recent Anonymous targets include the Church of Scientology because the church sent out a cease and desist letter after one of its church members passionately praised the religion publicly. It is well known that the church also hires private investigators that are tasked with the surveillance of its church members who are believed to be risks to the Church. In the eyes of Anonymous, this is viewed as an attack against freedom of speech and thus has been dealt with through attacks against the church’s website. Anonymous’ usual weapons of choice are DDoS, website defacement, and social engineering attacks. The Church’s website experienced lengthy downtimes and their phone lines were tied up for hours from prank callers.
The impact of Anonymous can be felt all over the world as witnessed in the news. This new found success has empowered the group with lack of fear of reprisal from its adversaries. As such, those who wish to mitigate any potential onslaught from the hacktivist group must take into consideration a sound online security stance and invest in new equipment and intelligence required to operate this equipment. The hacktivist group Anonymous has members from all over the world with various skill levels from various disciplines, which makes it more difficult to defend against.
While activism is meant as a way for people to engage in protests against many injustices using television, radio, or public exhibition, hacktivism takes the form of activism by way of the Internet. Hacktivists are technical in nature who understand how the Internet and computers work. Their individual skill levels range widely but as whole are fully encompassing. Anonymous is the next step in evolutionary change within today’s global cyber community. Anonymous’ empowerment originates from within the Internet and the global audience it provides. Take away the Internet and Anonymous would virtually cease to exist. You can either think of Anonymous as Cyber Terrorists or Cyber Activists but one thing is for sure, they will be around for a while and this may only be the beginning of a movement that has the potential to grow exponentially in succession with enormous controversy year after year.
Anonymous (group). (2015, 07). Retrieved 07 19, 2015, from WikiPedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_(group)
Dotson, K. (2012, 3). The Anonymous Impact: Hacktivism in 2011 Exceeded Criminal Breaches. Retrieved 7 2015, from SiliconAngle: http://siliconangle.com/blog/2012/03/22/the-anonymous-impact-hacktivism-in-2011-exceeded-criminal-breaches/
Norton, Q. (2012, 7 3). How Anonymous Picks Targets, Launches Attacks, and Takes Powerful Organizations Down. Retrieved 7 2015, from wired.com: http://www.wired.com/2012/07/ff_anonymous/
We are Anonymous. We do not forgive. We do not forget. (2013). Retrieved 7 2015, from dazeddigital: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/16308/1/we-are-anonymous-we-do-not-forgive-we-do-not-forget