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11 What It Is
Anonymous is an international decentralized hacktivist group that has drawn its notoriety from the various DDoS cyber-attacks launched against corporations, governments, institutions, the Church of Scientology and other organizations. As hacktivists, some members of Anonymous use their knowledge of computer systems and networks in a subversive manner in order to promote different facets of the group’s philosophy.
10 How It Started
The roots of Anonymous can be traced back to 2003, to a 4chan message board. The site’s /b/ board was the first place where the term ‘anonymous’ was used as a shared identity for a collective of unnamed individuals.
In 2012, Time magazine called Anonymous one of the ‘100 most influential people’ in the world. Yet, in its early days Anonymous was more of an expression of anarchic entertainment and trolling culture. This was also reflected by ‘doing it for the lulz’, one of the common phrases used by its members. As the group started gaining attention it began to develop a voice focused on social change. A long-standing and even divisive argument within the group debated whether Anonymous should primarily stand for entertainment and pranking or for serious activism. Since the group consists of thousands of members, it’s fairly difficult to outline a central philosophy.
There’s a tagline that’s frequently used by Anonymous members and this is ‘We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.’ This indicates that the group doesn’t work for the objectives of a single leader but rather as a unit that’s unrelenting in its resolve once it collectively agrees upon an objective. The group’s anonymity and lack of a central governing authority is also reflected in its emblem that depicts a man with a question mark instead of a head.
7 Being Anonymous
As Anonymous puts it, you can’t join Anonymous, as it isn’t a party, a club or even a movement. In a YouTube video Anonymous refers to itself as a collection of people who travel the same short direction for a short period of time. Becoming an Anon requires nothing in exchange. However, taking part in more elaborate Anonymous stunts most likely involves building relationships and proving yourself as a hacker. Anonymous operates a revolving door of people with various backgrounds and philosophies.
As recent history has proven, Anonymous will pick a fight with any entity that it views as being corrupted. The Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS attack has traditionally been the group’s main form of subversion. This type of attack crashes a network by overloading it with information, basically rendering a website unusable for a period of time. It’s the equivalent of a small website abruptly increasing in popularity and being unable to cope with the increase in traffic flow. Anonymous DDoS attacks are launched from a type of software called the ‘low-orbit ion cannon’ or LOIC.
5 Project Chanology
Project Chanology enhanced the Anonymous scope of operations beyond trolling to include hacktivism. In 2008, the Church of Scientology attempted to remove a clip from the Internet in which church member Tom Cruise was praising the religion. Anonymous retaliated to what the group perceived as being a form of Internet censorship. Anons sent black faxes to deplete the church’s ink cartridges, prank called its hotlines and DDoS attacks were launched across Scientology websites.
4 Operation Payback
By September 2010, Anonymous all but lost its media coverage and Anons had become divided between those seeking to wreak havoc for pure amusement and those that wanted to remain politically active. Indian software company Aiplex Software would unwillingly bridge the Anonymous divide. Aiplex contracted with film studios as well as record labels and was using Anonymous-like tactics to take down copyright infringers like The Pirate Bay. This was something that didn’t sit well with Anons all-around, since it went against the idea of freely sharing information.
3 Operation Avenge Assange
In November 2010, Anons extended Operation Payback to include Operation Avenge Assange. After WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of leaked US diplomatic cables, the US Government issued legal threats that prompted Visa, MasterCard and PayPal to cut off service to WikiLeaks. This prompted Anonymous to issue a press release in support of the organization, declaring PayPal a target. A series of sites were brought down but the LOIC was not strong enough to take down the PayPal site.