Anonymous is one Hacker group requiring very little introduction. Anonymous is one of the most famous underground (much less hacker) groups in the world. The guy Fawkes masks associated with Anonymous can be seen in many movements around the world. The group didn’t start as the loose affiliation it is today. Its evolution and some it its most notorious hacks will be discussed below.
Evolution of Anonymous:
Anonymous was formed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the US. One if its founding members, Mike Jones, claims the group decided to become freedom fighters in order to advocate on behalf of people whose rights have compromised by government action (4). Anonymous banded together to fight and expose governmental and corporate abuses throughout America and ultimately the world. After several of their hacks drew media attention, the Anonymous brand with its Guy Fawkes mask seemed to skyrocket in popularity.
Anonymous today is a much looser organization then when it was formed. The anonymous website states anyone who wants to join can be a part of the movement. Essentially anyone who fights oppression worldwide is welcome to use the anonymous brand. This obviously creates an issue for law enforcement as such a loose conglomeration is hard to track. It also made it difficult for some of Anonymous original members to continue under its umbrella as the group has strayed from its original design. Their members typically do remain anonymous as the name suggests however some have been unmasked. This was compromised when one of its well-known members Sabu, was busted by the FBI, and worked undercover with them for several years to bring down various members of the group (5).
Church of Scientology:
In 2008 anonymous declared war on the church of Scientology. This undertaking was called Operation Chanology. Anonymous claimed they had been observing the abuses Church of Scientology for some time, however it seems to have been the church’s insistence that YouTube remove a video Tom Cruise that inspired their call to action (3). Anonymous carried out a series of denial of service attacks on Church of Scientology websites. Anonymous posted an eerie video on YouTube asserting they would systematically destroy the Church of Scientology. They also called for several days of protests which drew thousands of people across the globe to protest outside of Church of a Scientology locations (3).
HBGary is a cybersecurity firm who once claimed to have uncovered the identities of key members of Anonymous. The CEO Aaron Barr, may have been looking for some notoriety for his company (1) The firm clearly didn’t expect what happened next. The HBGary website was defaced, internal emails were published, and the incompetence in the security firms own design was exposed (1). One of the servers for the owner of the firm was even wiped cleaned. Eventually a 19 year old American plead guilty for the Anonymous attack, though its clear he did not act alone (1).The longterm effects for HBGary may not have been so bad (1)
Arab Spring Uprising:
Anonymous became involved early in the arab spring uprisings. They wanted to ensure the flow of information to individuals in countries where the uprisings occurred. In Operation Tunisia, Anonymous took steps to ensure individuals inside the country were able to share information about what was going on. They provided information on how people could protect their identities on the web and also provided scripts for extensions to certain Internet browsers for the people inside Tunisia to avoid detection by their government (2). They also targeted various sites of the Tunisian government and occasionally knock them off-line (2). Ironically one of their most notorious leaders of Anonymous, Sabu, later commented that he was unsure if the actions taken by anonymous into nature did more good than harm (5)
Anonymous started as a fairly coordinate group of freedom fighters, who may not have been prepared for the attention that came with the popularity of their brand. Several highly publicized hacks and the arrest of several members seem to be a catalyst for a shift from the original close knit group. Ironically these events seem to have led to Anonymous being a group accessible to anyone who wants to fight oppression worldwide.