Bugged.com Profile: Anonymous
There have been several different news stories and articles concerning Anonymous, the hacker group who has targeted many high ranking sites and officials. Just recently, the group was able to hack in to a phone call between the FBI and several other police agencies from all over the world. The call was addressing a way to approach the hacker situation. The FBI later revealed that the call was meant to be private. Additionally, Anonymous posted emails online this week which they claim are from the Syrian president, suggesting how Bashar al-Assad. The emails were referencing an interview he had with Barbara Walters concerning a way to downplay violence in Syria.
But who is Anonymous? Their motto states “We Are Legion.”
In the strictest of terms, a legion is a group of fighters who operate much better as a single unit than any of them do individually. Anonymous goes to great lengths to make themselves completely unidentifiable, hence their name and motto. Because of their ambiguity, some simply refer to them as a group of pranksters or criminals. Others say that they are just nerds with way too much time on their hands.
There are others, however, who believe that Anonymous is the first step towards a new generation of Internet-based social activism, ushering in a new area of revolution. They praise the apply-named “hactivists” for their actions.
Wired, a news site with postings mainly concerning technology, eavesdropping, and surveillance, has said that Anonymous is not just a group, but an entire culture within itself, with many aspects that one would expect to find when studying another country, such as “aesthetics and values, art and literature, social norms and ways of production, and even its own dialectic language.”
As for the literal operation of Anonymous, becoming part of it is as simple as going onto its Internet Relay Chat forums and typing away. There are numerous Twitter accounts which claim to be affiliated with Anonymous, and more websites that post and repost Anonymous content than there is room to mention here. The real-life people involved in Anonymous could be behind their laptops anywhere, from an Internet café in Malaysia to a Michigan suburb. Anonymous appears to have no spokesperson or leader. One could participate for a minute or a day in a chat room, and then never go back again.
It is poor etiquette to ask in a chat forum for real names or identifying information behind someone’s IM handle. You just trust that the others’ intentions, for the most part, are to serve the whole. Online discussions can eventually wind toward a “vote” on whether to go after a target, which anyone in the chat can suggest, according to Gregg Housh, a Boston web developer who’s tried to explain Anonymous on many media outlets, including CNN.com. He says he’s not a spokesperson for Anonymous and that he merely observes Anonymous chats but doesn’t participate in its activities.
“If the group at that given time decides to go after a website and take it down, then that happens,” he said. “If the majority of the people chatting disagree and make their case, then it won’t happen.”
It’s an uphill battle verifying information for stories about Anonymous. Law enforcement is in an equally tricky spot when pursuing Anonymous participants if authorities believe they have violated the law. There have been several arrests involving alleged Anonymous members, several of them teenagers.