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Anonymous; Activist Collective or Hacker Group, Hero or Villain?

by on05 June 2012 8408 times

anonymousAs someone that has followed the online “hacking” community since its infancy (war dialing anyone) I can say with a fair amount of confidence that the guys what kicked it all off (Like Steve Wozniak) would be proud of where some of the movement has gone. In the early 80’s War Dialing was something of a fun sport, you dialed a range of numbers until a computer answered and then you tried to talk to it. A lot of the activity was aimed at “corrupt businesses and government agencies” right alongside the people looking to just do it because it was something new and exciting.

Today there is not the same need to war dial (or even war drive), but the community is still very strong. The problem is that now it has a new and very nasty criminal element that gets a lot of the press. When you hear the term hacker the thought of someone trying to break into a bank or business computer network to steal comes to mind. This actually represents a very small portion of the community. Many of the people that are stylized as hackers are not malicious (although there are ones that certainly are), but they get lumped into the same stereotype that is presented by most news agencies and law enforcement.

To add to the confusion we now have a new class of “hacker”, this is the hacktivist. The hacktivist is the modern day equivalent of the activists in the 60s and 70s; they are here to remind the “man” that the people have a voice. In the 60s and 70s the method was sit-ins and protests with the occasional rock throwing and yes some vandalism and violence. Still these tactics had a measurable effect on society. Now some of those same people are in government (or their kids are) yet the idea of change is still very distant to them. They have been caught up in the intoxicating power that comes with a lack of accountability.

However, the Hacktivist is able to remind them that everyone is accountable and there is no larger hacktivist group than Anonymous. As we have previously written Anonymous has been the focus of fear mongering laws, FBI investigations, and more news stories (some wildly inaccurate) than we care to talk about here. They are the bane of the current administration (and any administration for that matter) in the US as they continue to show how lax security is while exposing corruption in many places.

This has then on the hit list for the FBI, DHS, the NSA and others as they try to classify them as terrorists. The problem there is that Anonymous is using their best tool to make sure that both sides of the story get out. They understand the medium of the Internet in a way that the FBI, CIA, NSA and other agencies do not. There is a power in social media and in providing to readers all of the information. All you have to do is a quick search for Anonymous on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and any other social media outlet to find the collective. It is not just one account; it is multitudes from all over the globe.

Take a look at the listing of targets and then look at what governments are trying to claim and you will see that something does not add up. If the Anonymous collective was a group of Terrorists why are they going after Pedophiles on a regular basis? Why are they linking and showing support for the Occupy Movement, why are they busy exposing the details of trade agreements that many legal and constitutional scholars agree is borderline illegal? The last time I checked this is not what makes a terrorist.

They say that a government that no longer fears its people has become ineffective. In Anonymous anyone can join the ranks of a group that does bring fear to corporations and the governments they sponsor. In many ways, despite the illegal activities they perform (since breaching a computer network and grabbing data is still illegal), Anonymous has been a positive influence on the globe and on the IT industry. It has brought to light many of the failings of the existing infrastructure which may have never been changed leaving critical services exposed to attack. Anonymous has forced ISPs, businesses law enforcement agencies and others to be accountable to the people that they serve. This is something that no one else seems to have been able to accomplish in the same amount of time.

Of course considering the believed size of the collective and the fact that anyone can join/support the group there is always the possibility of malicious users inside Anonymous. We have seen people posing as different factions of Anonymous that are asking for donations, releasing malware and worse. These are quickly found by the group and word spreads fast about them. Considering this, we ask again; can we really lump Anonymous into the category of Terrorist? Or are they in the same boat as the activists that brought about the repeal of segregation and other social changes that have pushed our societies farther along? We will leave that for you to decide, but when you are making up your mind remember to look at all of the facts.

 

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Last modified on 05 June 2012
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