Anons talks about their cyberactivist highlights of 2012, the impact of arrests and who can speak for Anonymous SLIDE SHOW
As the year draws to a close and perfunctory 2012 reviews fill the quietened news agenda, one presence seems an almost constant accompaniment to 2012′s major news events. When Israel launched a military assault on Gaza in November, while the Assad regime rained airstrikes against the Syrian people, even when the Westboro Baptist Church’s planned a predictably vile response to the Newtown massacre — Anonymous was there.
As Wired’s Quinn Norton extensively detailed earlier this year, 2011 and early 2012 presented the sprawling hacker collective with challenges both practical and existential. Hector Xavier Monsegur — best known as Sabu, a central member of LulzsSec, the arm of Anonymous responsible for the famed Stratfor hack — was arrested last year and revealed as an FBI informant in March 2012. Dozens of “Anons” across the world were outed by Sabu and picked up by the FBI and Interpol. Sabu’s flip to informant not only lost Anonymous some of their most talented hackers, but also eroded the idea of Anonymous as an unbreakable, unfathomable legion. Other faces of Anonymous emerged alongside the cold, grinning Guy Fawkes mask; real, human, flesh-and-blood faces of young men — like 27-year-old Jeremy Hammond, a social justice activist from Chicago who could face life in prison for his alleged involvement in the Stratfor hack.
But, true to name and form, Anonymous continued. “Anonymous is a hydra. It will keep growing, adapting and evolving” tweeted one of the collective’s main Twitter feeds, @YourAnonNews, following news of Sabu’s snitching in March. And indeed Anonymous operations (“Ops”) throughout the rest of this year have proven the resilience of the collective and its undergirding ideas.
Speaking anonymously from and self-identifying only as “Anonymous,” one hacker who spends “an average of ten hours per day, seven days a week working on Anonymous and cyber-activist related activities” ran down some of the collective’s 2012 highlights, a year they describe as “frantic and historic for Anonymous”:
The New Year began of course with the residual energy and clean up chores from the infamous “Stratfor Hack” and our little “Lulzmas” party wherein we used stolen Stratfor credit cards to deliver nearly 1 million dollars in donations, much of it to Occupy related groups. Negotiations began in 2012 to deliver the stolen Stratfor files to WikiLeaks. And we had a carry over from the year before of “Operation Syria” and “Operation Bahrain”, two long running “Freedom Ops” which continued throughout 2012. In February we breached all the government servers in Syria and stole several million government E-Mails, which we later delivered to WikiLeaks.
The first new “Freedom Op” of 2012 began on January 1st and was “Operation Nigeria II” in which Anonymous spent approximately two months supporting Occupy Nigeria nationwide protests.
The New Year also started out with a bang with the explosive and history making defense of Kim DotCom and his company in the historic “Operation MegaUpload.” The Op was live for approximately five days in which more websites were DdoSed, defaced and dumped than ever before in the history of cyber-activism. It remains today the largest online act of civil-disobedience protest in the history of the Internet.
Also during the New Year period there was the first of its kind Anonymous secret Op being conducted, “Operation Xport” – the goal of which was to use Anonymous and Occupy related assets to safely transport an indicted Anon known to the world as “Commander X” into political exile in Canada. This first of it’s kind Operation was successful and made public two days after X securely crossed the border on February 9, 2012.
During the spring, Anonymous launched yet another “Freedom Op” that was immensely successful and the was “Operation Quebec”, to assist the striking students and fight against the draconian “Law 78″. This Op ran throughout the summer and into the fall.
During the summer months, while all the other Ops continued – Anonymous launched two smaller Ops that persist to this day “Operation Paraguay” and
“Operation Ethiopia”. These also are what are known as “Freedom Ops”.
Anonymous sent me this response just days before the Newtown school shooting. When the Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to picket the funerals of the 20 children and 6 adults murdered and Sandy Hook Elementary School, Anonymous jumped into action, publishing personal information about church members and bringing down websites operated by the church.
The Anonymous spokesperson was adamant that the arrest of fellow hackers had not deterred their efforts. However, Kenneth Lipp, a Philadelphia-based hactivist who has been working with Anonymous for two years, seemed less assured. He told me via email:
Frankly I think that the arrests of Barrett [Brown -- the one-time self-identifying Anonymous spokesperson arrested in September] and [Jeremy] Hammond fuel Anons; however, I think Sabu’s arrest was certainly chilling (and therefore had its intended effect). Barrett and Hammond were both open about what they do, whereas Sabu’s case alerted everyone to their vulnerability even within the IRCs [Anonymous' online chat forums of choice] and chats. Sabu was also personally responsible for a lot of the actual site exploitation and with him out of the picture there is much less “hacking” going on. Anonymous has been largely relegated to the DDoS as a form of civil disobedience.
Despite a shift away from the sophisticated hacks carried out by Sabu and other members of Anonymous’ AntiSec and LulzSec arms, my anonymous Anon source expressed great pride at the collective’s major Ops this year and the public response to them:
All of the Ops I mentioned above make me proud. When I see us on the Time “Most Influential Person Of The Year” [nominee] list, when I see us winning the Time “Person of the Year” poll, when I see the wonderful Russia Today piece wherein we were designated their “Most Influential Person of the Year”, when I watch the amazing motion picture “We Are Legion”, it makes the endless hours of work every day to keep the collective going worth it – and it all makes me proud.
Anonymous has been both a media darling this year and a constant challenge to traditional forms of news reporting, which tend to demand that subjects have names and spokespeople be official. Despite the revelation this year of more and more named Anons — some through choice, many more at the hands of law enforcement — the collective remains amorphous and largely unconstrained. My Anon source explained when it comes to “who is ‘in’ or ‘out’ [of Anonymous] that is a personal choice. If you want to be an Anon, then you are an Anon.” There are only a few bare-bone principles now associated with the collective, listed on AnonWiki:
1) Do not attack the media. (This includes main stream, independent, and social media)
2) Do not attack critical infrastructure. (Such as communications networks, power grids – or hospitals)
3) Work for Justice and Freedom. (Especially with regards to freedom of information and the internet)
ANYONE anywhere can initiate an Anonymous operation, action, or group – and so long as they adhere to these basic principles they are as much Anonymous as anyone. EVERYONE is Anonymous.
Yet Lipp, who helped disseminate information for Anonymous’ famed hack of tech security firm HBGary and helped with the celebrated “OpTunisia,” doesn’t speak “as” an Anon. “It seems to me that a lot of energy is wasted on the ‘definition’ of Anonymous,” he told me, adding, “I do think it is important to be clear that no one speaks for Anonymous, but in the same way that no one speaks for every single member of any group. People have freedom of association; if they disagree with the overwhelming public image of a group or term it’s incumbent upon them to disassociate themselves with that group or to alter the public image. There’s no template manifesto to put public opinion into sharp relief.”
As Norton explained, Anonymous is a “do-ocracy” – a banner defined by actions done under it more than who is flying it, named or unnamed.
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- In response to the government shut down of Megapuload—a popular file sharing service—and arrest of four of its employees, Anonymous staged a DDoS attack on the websites of the USDOJ, the US Copyright Office, Warner Brothers Music, the RIAA, the FBI, and the UMG (the company that filed the suit against Megaupload) among other related sites. MortAuPat via Flickr.
- After a series of governments signed on to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) but before any EU countries had committed to ACTA, Anonymous shut down various websites of European governments, including those of Poland, France, Austria, and Slovenia (as well as the site of the allegedly corrupt Slovenian bank, NLB). On Twitter, Anonymous declared that the attacks were in protest of ACTA. Haeferl via Wikimedia Commons.
January 21, Anti-ACTA protests in Europe
- Hackers who identified themselves as part of the Anonymous movement hacked into email boxes of prominent pro-Kremlin officials and activists, including Vasily Yakemenko (featured), the head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs. The emails, which the activists released over the @OP_Russia Twitter account, revealed information that implicated that Yakemenko paid influential bloggers and trolls to create a positive impression of Putin on the Internet (In case you're wondering, 200 pro-Putin online comments on 60 articles go for 600,000 roubles, almost $20,000 USD). Kaplina Alena via Wikimedia Commons.
Feb 1, Operation Russia
- Anonymous hacked the mail server of the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affiars, acquiring access to some 78 inboxes of staffers for Bashar al-Assad. In July, Anonymous gave over 2.4 million of these emails to Wikileaks. Haaretz obtained one email meant to prepare Assad for his 2011 interview with Barbara Walters, when he famously denied that his government was killing its own citizens. In the email, Assad's media advisor tells him that the “American psyche can be easily manipulated.” James Gordon via Wikimedia Commons.
February 6, Syrian Government Email Leak
- As part of a #FFF (FuckFBIFriday) post, Anonymous leaked a conversation between an FBI agent and a Scotland Yard official about putting Anonymous and Lulz Sec (a group within the collective) hackers on trial. Along with the leak, Anonymous took down the CIA’s website for over five hours. A few weeks later, Anonymous briefly took down the Interpol site after the agency announced the arrests of 25 suspected members of Anonymous. Duffman via Wikimedia Commons.
February 10, Fighting the CIA, Scotland Yard, and Interpol
- In protest of the corruption of the Catholic Church—not followers of Catholicism—and other offenses including child molestation, Anonymous brought down the Vatican website twice with DDoS attacks, and hacked Vatican Radio to get access to its database. Xerones via Flickr.
March 13, DDoS the Vatican
- When the Bahraini government decided to hold the Grand Prix race despite violent crackdowns throughout the country, Anonymous vandalized the Formula One racing site and a number of fan sites, some of which where replaced with a message from the collective detailing the oppressive nature of King Hamad bin Al Khalifa's regime. The collective also dumped data related to ticket sales, including names, email addresses, and passport numbers of spectators, but with all credit card numbers redacted. Andrew Griffith via Flickr.
April 21, Bahrain Grand Prix
- In reaction to the anti-assembly Bill 78 touted by Quebec's Premier Jean Charest (featured right), Anonymous released a video urging Charest's Liberal Party to let citizens protest. The hacktivists also took down the the Liberal Party of Quebec's site and a government site on police ethics, among others, with DDoS attacks. On May 30, hackers leaked a two-hour long video called “DVD Gouvern(mental)” that showed a party of business and political elites including Premier Charest and former US president George H. Bush in an effort to demonstrate corporate-political ties. OECD via Flickr.
May 20, Operation Quebec
- Anonymous took down the site of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and several other government sites in response to copyright laws passed in Japan that could result in fines of $25,000 or two years in prison for those caught with pirated material. It was the first attack Anonymous has made against the Japanese government. thorner via Flickr.
June 26, Operation Japan
- Anonymous supported the massive protests sparked by two fatal police-involved shootings in Anaheim, including that of the unarmed 25-year-old Manuel Diaz. The collective released Police Chief John Welter’s personal information, threatened to deface Anaheim Police Department websites, and posted a video that encouraged a boycott of the city that is home to Disneyland: “Do not travel there or spend your tourist dollars in Anaheim, CA." amberjamiewordpress via Flickr.
July 25, Operation Anaheim
- Anonymous attacked two Ugandan government websites for its proposed "Kill the Gays" bill. The hackers defaced the Prime Minister's site and left a message that included: "You should be PROUD of your LGBT citizens, because they clearly have more balls than you will ever have." The death penalty was removed from the bill in November, but the law would still allow those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” to be sentenced to life imprisonment. Anonymous is reportedly preparing for a second round of attacks as the Ugandan government prepares to push this version of the bill through by late December. riekhavoc via Flickr.
August 13, Uganda LGBT rights
- AntiSec, a group under the Anonymous umbrella, released one million Apple Device IDs to bring attention to alleged government surveillance, claiming that the IDs were swiped from an FBI laptop. However, The Guardian reported that the CEO of a web publishing company called Blue Toad acknowledged that the file details of the IDs matched those in Blue Toad's database. The FBI tweeted out that Anonymous' claim was "totally false." As a side note, in its statement about the hack, Anonymous added that it wouldn’t give interviews to journalists until Gawker published a photo of its writer Adrien Chen, who has been critical of the hackers, in a ballet tutu (which Gawker later did publish). marcopaco via Flickr.
September 4, FBI Laptop
- When it was announced that the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party had opened up a New York office in hopes of gaining expat support, Anonymous promptly shut down its website. Next, the Twitter account @YourAnonNews posted the phone number of the party's Queens-based office and invited everyone to give the fascists a "warm welcome" to the neighborhood. anonymous_shadow via Flickr.
September 26, Golden Dawn Attack
- On September 12, The president of the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III (featured), signed the Cybercrime Prevention Act into law. The law goes far beyond SOPA or PIPA by prohibiting not only file-sharing, but also cybersex, pornography, and most controversially, online libel. It also allows the government to monitor personal accounts on sites like Facebook and applications like Skype without a warrant, and institute penalties as high as 12 years in prison. The Philippine Star reported that "Anonymous Philippines" struck down several government web sites and replaced them with a statement against the Cybercrime Act, which called it “the most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber history of the Philippines.” Enigma-Chadto Group via Wikimedia.
September 26, Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act
- Following the US Presidential election, a group self-named "The Protectors" that is believed to be made up of Anonymous hackers, released a statement saying that they had blocked Karl Rove’s scheme of digital vote theft in three states, and had monitored Rove’s henchmen as they unsuccessfully tried to crack Anonymous’ firewalls on election night, 105 times. According to the statement, the hacker group found out about Rove’s plans months in advance and coded firewalls in preparation, which apparently they didn’t put up until Election Day. The story is unsubstantiated, and some point out that it seemed unlikely that the GOP's Get Out The Vote system that Anonymous claimed to have hacked had the capability to rig votes. However, others remark that the story would help explain Ohio’s server problems around 11:00pm, and signs of Republican over-confidence such as Romney's unwritten concession speech and Rove’s delusional determination to keep counting votes. AP/ Tony Gutierrez.
November 4, Stopping the Rove Machine
- In reaction to Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza, Anonymous staged a massive attack on nearly 700 Israeli websites on November 17, ranging from sites like those of the Foreign Ministry and Defense Force to those of local tourism companies. Anonymous had supported the Palestinian people from the outset of the Israeli offensive, releasing a statement: "For far too long, Anonymous has stood by with the rest of the world and watched in despair the barbaric, brutal and despicable treatment of the Palestinian people in the so called 'Occupied Territories' by the Israel Defense Force." Anonymous also shared a "Gaza Care Package," which included instructions in Arabic and English to assist Gazans if the Israeli government cut their Internet connection, as well as instructions on how to evade IDF surveillance and provide first aid. Throughout November, Anonymous conducted cyber-attacks against Israel, leaking personal information of 5,000 Israeli officials and hijacking the Israeli deputy Prime Minster’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and flooding them with pro-Palestinian messages. Tal King Photographer via Flickr.
November 17, #OpIsrael
- In response to Bashar al-Assad’s shut down of the Internet in Syria, Anonymous released a statement explaining that although the Syrian regime had physically severed the fiber-optic cables coming into Syria, the hackers had been preparing with Syrian activists for well over a year and claimed that they had “produced and disseminated the Syrian Care Package” and that there were “emergency independent media centers already set up in every city of Syria.” Anonymous also set out shutting down Syrian embassy websites around the world, and other government sites. Syriana2011 via Flickr.
November 29, Operation Syria
- A group claiming to be Anonymous defaced the website of the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal (featured, left) with unflattering words about his mental capabilities. This was in response to Sibal's promotion of India’s IT Act, Section 66A, which calls for imprisonment of "any person who sends by any means of a computer resource... any information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character,” and has led to arrests for “liking” a comment on Facebook and forwarding joke emails. United States Department of State via Wikimedia Commons.
December 1, Operation India Revenge
- Anonymous shut down HunterMoore.tv, Hunter Moore's new site after his site "Is Anyone Up" (a platform to share pornographic images and personal information of past lovers) was closed for legal reasons. Anonymous also released Moore's personal details after the king of revenge porn said he would share addresses and other personal details of his exes on HunterMoore.tv. @Huntermoore via Twitter.
December 6, #OpHuntHunter, #OpAntiBully
- The Westboro Baptist Church threatened to protest the funerals and vigils of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which prompted a backlash from hacktivists. Anonymous took over the Twitter account of Shirley Roper-Phelps, the spokesperson for the church, hacked the church’s site (godhatesgays.com) and released names, phone numbers (including current hotel phone numbers, which the hacktivists encouraged followers to call and request that they refuse to host church members), home and email addresses, and the Social Security Numbers of select members. Anonymous tweeted that it had successfully filed for a death certificate for Roper-Phelps, preventing her from using her Social Security Number. Additionally, members of Anonymous (along with other hacktivists) have been promoting a White House petition that calls for the Westboro Baptist Church to be designated as a “hate group,” which has already garnered over 260,000 signatures. In an interesting turn of events, the DDoS and threat mitigation provider for the Westboro sites, a company called Black Lotus, announced that it would donate all of the revenue it has earned from the church to charity—after reaching out to @YourAnonNews for advice. harbor88 via Flickr.
December 16, Westboro Baptist Church and Sandy Hook Elementary
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Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email firstname.lastname@example.org. More Natasha Lennard.
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